The Indiana Pacers were in a solid position to take a 3-1 series lead over the Miami Heat in Game 4 of their conference semifinal matchup. However, the Pacers let the game get away in the second half, as LeBron James and Dwyane Wade went off to even the series at two games apiece.
OK. So Indiana lost a game. All they needed to do was regroup, go back to the drawing board and develop a game plan to beat the Heat in Game 5 (and the Pacers do have the players to beat Miami). But what did the Pacers do?
They got blown out 115-83, and they now trail the Heat 3-2 in the series.
Here is the thing about Indiana: They have a significant advantage inside, and that might be downplaying how much of an edge Frank Vogel's squad has in the paint. Miami has absolutely no one that can cover 7'2" Roy Hibbert one-on-one, and David West is being guarded by Shane Battier.
You mean to tell me that the Pacers can't exploit that mismatch?
Instead of doing the smart thing and feeding the ball into their big guys in the post, Indiana jacked up 21 three-pointers, connecting on only six of them, and shot a paltry 33.7 percent from the floor.
George Hill (who attempted five treys and missed all of them) and Darren Collison, the Pacers' two point guards, combined for three assists.
Indiana's leading scorer? Paul George with 11.
This was just a horrific display from the Pacers on both ends of the floor, but the fact that they continue to refuse to take advantage of their size down low is simply mind-boggling.
Hibbert has to be getting more than 10 shots, which was the amount he took in Game 5. West? He needs to do a better job of asserting himself against Battier. There is no good reason as to why a wing should be outworking a power forward in the low post. None whatsoever.
West shot 5-of-13 from the floor on Tuesday night, finishing with 10 points and only four rebounds. He did not even get to the free-throw line once.
That is not all West's fault, though, as Vogel has to realize that running the offense through Hibbert is the best option and that, in turn, will open up West. Hibbert is a giant out there. He has Joel Anthony and Ronny Turiaf trying to check him. That is why he needs the ball.
The same thing happened in Game 4. Indiana fell into a habit of taking contested jump shots when they should have been pounding the ball inside. If they were at least good shots that were created from good ball movement, then I could live with it, but these shots are coming off of one pass.
The Pacers have no fluidity to their offense right now after being so effective in the first three games of this series. Sure, you can credit Miami's defense for turning up the heat (no pun intended), but you can also lambast Indiana for running poor offensive sets.
If the Pacers keep trying to beat the Heat by shooting threes and long twos, they are going down in Game 6. It has also become blatantly obvious to the world in this series that Indiana is not the smartest team on the fast break.
How about George throwing the ball away on a three-on-one in Game 5? That was just horrendous. The Pacers also had several transition opportunities in the first quarter of Game 4 where they could have broken the game open early, but instead, they decided to shoot pull-up jumpers.
So Vogel, you need to start running more plays (a lot more plays) for Hibbert. You need to get him the basketball because Miami cannot cover him. The only thing the Heat can do is send a double-team his way, and that will obviously open up Indiana's offense.
Also, Mr. West, you need to be more aggressive, although the fact that you sprained your knee toward the end of Game 5 might make it difficult to do that (Danny Granger also sprained his ankle, as well). If you're feeling even close to 100 percent, you need to dominate your matchup with Battier.
You need to score on him at will in the post because you can. Battier may be a very good perimeter defender, but he is not a post defender.
If the Pacers do these things, then there is a good chance they can take this series back to Miami for a Game 7. If not, they are likely going home early, and based on what I saw in Games 4 and 5, I am not too confident that Indiana will smarten up.
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