NBA Playoffs 2012: 4 Ways the Pacers Can Advance Far
David West, Danny Granger, George Hill and Paul George provided the scoring. Roy Hibbert provided rebounding. Everything just clicked.
Game 1 of the series was nearly the same.
Despite only Granger and West leading the offensive attack, everything still clicked for the Pacers. Then it all fell a part in the final minutes.
Drawing a playoff matchup against a Orlando team without Dwight Howard seemed like a cake walk in the making for Indiana.
Instead they receive a team that, at its best, can surprise and have a playoff run similar to the Memphis Grizzlies in 2011. A Memphis team who was ironically missing their star player as well.
If the Pacers win, this series will create a blueprint of how they will need to consistently play to advance far in the 2012 NBA Playoffs
Limit Opponents Key Players
During their four-game series in the regular season, Orlando dominated Indiana and won three of those games.
Dwight Howard was a major reason that occurred
The Pacers simply had no answer for him, except for maybe Howard getting into foul trouble.
Interestingly enough, the one regular season game they did win against Orlando saw Howard score 24 points and none of his teammates scoring over 14 points.
Now the Magic are in the playoffs without their fearless leader. No Howard probably meant the world to the Pacers' Roy Hibbert.
Enter Glen "Big Baby" Davis.
Granted Davis is far from being a superstar-caliber talent, but he has been stepping up when needed. His experience playing with the Boston Celtics is starting to show, and right now Orlando needs someone to fill that huge void on their team.
When Orlando won Game 1, Davis had 16 points, while Jameer Nelson and Jason Richardson each scored 17.
In Game 2, Davis scored 18 points, but none of his teammates scored over 13.
This was key in the Pacers' victory.
If Indiana plays like this throughout the playoffs, Orlando will be eliminated fast and Miami may be in for a seven-game series.
If Indiana makes it pass Miami, they have the best odds of representing the East in the NBA Finals.
Indiana, in my opinion, has one of the most complete starting fives in the NBA. I simply do not see a weakness.
They happen to possess a gifted big man in Roy Hibbert, who can both score and play pretty decent defense.
Hibbert has been noticeably quiet on the offensive front as of late. While it has not hurt the team, his stepping up on offense could boost Indiana's ability to dominate in the playoffs.
The Pacers seem to have the right mix of things to get past Orlando in the first round.
However, playing in a series against a team like Miami and potentially Chicago or Boston will require the Pacers to keep their flaws to a minimum.
There will be games where Danny Granger, David West, George Hill and Paul George will struggle offensively. If Roy Hibbert can find his scoring touch again and combine it with the defense he has showcased lately, the Pacers will be hard to beat.
Improved Play of the Bench
The Achilles heel of the Indiana Pacers is obviously their bench.
Their playoff rotation includes Leandro Barbosa, Tyler Hansbrough, Lou Amundson and Darren Collison. Dahntay Jones will apparently not play unless an injury occurs.
Barbosa, a former member of the Phoenix Suns, is the most experienced playoff veteran on the roster. He also has been to the Conference Finals three times.
His leadership is valuable on a team full of young players.
Barbosa has had games where he goes on a hot streak and puts points on the board. Problem is, he is also very inconsistent.
If Barbosa can step up when his teammates are struggling, it will help Indiana in the playoffs.
Tyler Hansbrough is a mystery.
During his collegiate career at North Carolina, Hansbrough was simply unstoppable.
Every year there are collegiate stars who do not successfully transition their game to the pro level, but where did his offensive skill go?? It's come in spurts, so I know it's still there. Whether during the playoffs or in the offseason, hopefully Hansbrough gets it together.
Lou Amundson I will skip.
Lastly there is Darren Collison, who was at one point the Pacers' starting point guard.
CBS reports this quote from head coach Frank Vogel that says it best,
“Where we’ve struggled is with the second unit scoring and the hope is D.C. can come in and infuse some life into that unit and get this entire team playing at a level 10, take it even a step higher from where we’re at right now. That’s what I’ve asked D.C. to do, to focus on energizing that second unit.”
During the regular season, Indiana had a .368 three-point shooting average that ranked them sixth in the NBA. Orlando was tied for third with a .375 three-point shooting average.
How Frank Vogel and his team goes about stopping Orlando's three-point shooting will be the guideline they need to follow for the rest of the 2012 playoffs.
The longer the series plays out, the better a chance Orlando will have to win. How well they shoot the three will be why. Look at their victory in Game 1 as an example.
Then there is this quote: "With Dwight being out, the 3-point line is what we had to take care of, and we didn't," Pacers guard Paul George said.
At the same time, Indiana needs to solve their own three-point woes. The Pacers' three-point shooting (2-of-20) was plain awful in Game 2, and only slightly better in Game 1 (4-of-13).
Shooting the three well is beneficial to their style of play, but it will not win games if they continue their recent struggles.
Placing a limit on their opponent's three-point shooting will provide the biggest headache.