In Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals Sunday the Pacers scored 119 points per 100 possessions and absolutely devastated the Heat defense. Indiana played smart pick-and-roll basketball to expose Miami’s poor rotations as the roll man got a lot of good looks in the paint. Indiana moved the ball, hit 8-of-19 shots from three, and made Miami look a step slow all game long. The Pacers were the aggressors, getting to the free throw line 37 times to the Heat’s 15.
It was not at all what anyone expected — the Pacers were built to grind the Heat down, not outscore them. Which begs the real question for Game 2:
Can the Pacers replicate that performance?
Or, was Game 1 a “one off” that will not look like any other game in this series?
We will find out Tuesday night with Game 2 between these teams in Indiana.
First off, expect a much more aggressive Miami defense. In Game 1 the Heat let the Pacers start their sets and get to their spots on the floor with little disruption, that will not be the case this time around. Also, expect much sharper defensive rotations for Miami, particularly off the pick-and-roll. The Pacers roll man continually got the ball in the paint and made plays, expect Miami to defend that with more aggressive play. However, in Game 1 the Pacers hit 8-of-14 from the midrange and 41.2 percent from three, do that again Miami will struggle to stop them.
Expect Udonis Haslem to start and Shane Battier to come off the bench, as the Heat did in the second half of Game 1. Miami needs the size and defense to match up better with Indiana — Roy Hibbert and David West combined for 38 points, 16 rebounds and six assists in Game 1. Don’t expect to see Greg Oden, who coach Eric Spoelstra said after Game 1 was not physically ready to go.
What Miami also needs is someone to play well on offense who is not named LeBron James or Dwyane Wade. We’re looking at you, Chris Bosh. He was 4-of-12 shooting and 0-of-5 from three in Game 1. Miami needs Bosh’s jump shot to pull the Heat bigs out of the paint and create room for LeBron and Wade to drive the lane. Bosh can do that. Also Miami could use more Ray Allen or Mario Chalmers or anyone else who can get hot from three and give them some points.
Indiana still has matchup advantages — mainly Miami doesn’t have a great answer for Roy Hibbert, who had 19 points (9 earned at the free throw line) and 9 rebounds in Game 1. But Hibbert has been anything but consistent these playoffs, posting some zero-zero games as well. He’s had games where he didn’t fight for position, or didn’t get the ball when he did. It begs the question which Roy Hibbert shows up on Tuesday?
It’s really the same question for Paul George and the entire Pacers offense — can they do it in back-to-back games? Because so far in these playoffs (and over the final months of the season) they have often followed a strong performance with a dud. The Pacers have been the very definition of inconsistent, a team Has Miami woken them up? Will the Pacers defense that was built to make life difficult for the Heat continue to thrive on Tuesday night?
Or was Game 1 a one off?