NBA Playoffs: What We've Learned from Game 1 of Indiana Pacers-Miami Heat Series
This was after Paul George was fouled on a three-point attempt by Dwyane Wade and then connected on all three free-throw attempts to put Indiana up by one with 2.2 second left on the clock.
We knew that this series would be a rough affair, and the game came down to the final possession. After getting bounced by the Heat in the conference semifinals last year, the Pacers look hungrier than ever to knock off the defending champions.
At the conclusion of Game 1, this series is every bit as exciting as expected.
David West Continues His Dominance Against the Heat
The Heat's weakness in the interior and James guarding Lance Stephenson on the perimeter allowed David West to continue his individual dominance against a weak frontcourt.
During the regular season, West averaged 22.7 point per game, 7.7 rebounds per game, 3.0 assists per game and 9.5 free-throw attempts in three contests against the Heat (per Basketball Reference). In Game 1 of the playoffs, his regular-season play carried over, and he put up 26 points on 11-of-17 shooting from the field.
However, his efforts were all for naught. He missed a step-back jumper with about a minute left in overtime that could have given the Pacers the lead.
Nevertheless, West must maintain his production on offense if the Pacers want to have a chance of defeating the Heat in a seven-game series—especially if Roy Hibbert isn't playing well.
Paul George vs. LeBron James Matchup Will Be Intense
James recorded a triple-double with 30 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in Game 1, while Paul George countered with 27 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists.
It's not the stat line that made this matchup so enticing.
Towards the end of the game, it was basically George and James going head to head, making clutch play after clutch play until James made the game-winning layup.
George's deep three-pointer tied the game with 0.7 seconds left in the fourth quarter and promptly sent the game into overtime. Then, with 2.2 seconds left in the game, George drew the sixth foul on Dwyane Wade while attempting a three-pointer and hit all three of his free throws. Clutch.
Unfortunately, James was one step ahead of George—literally. He made two layups within the final minute of overtime, the second of which was the game winner with George defending him.
This series so far has been everything we expected and even more. George was phenomenal and he's growing up right before our eyes.
The Pacers' Interior Defense is Exposed Without Hibbert
Standing at 7'2", Hibbert has molded himself into one of the best defensive centers in the league.
In the last twelve seconds of the game, James got to the basket and hit two rather uncontested layups. In both scenarios, Hibbert was sitting on the bench, watching the plays develop.
Although Coach Vogel tried to explain his decision (via NBC Sports) to keep Hibbert on the bench, there is no justification for a mistake like that.
You never trade a wide open layup from the best player in the game for a 15-foot jumper from Chris Bosh—even if he's been hitting them consistently.
If Hibbert was in the game, James would have to take a contested layup or pull up for a jumper after catching the ball. Two seconds is not enough time to drive to the rim and pass the ball to a teammate if Hibbert is there to contest the layup attempt. James would've been forced to take a much more difficult shot.
Additionally, George extremely overplayed James in the last possession, allowing him an easy drive to the rim.
Going forward, the Pacers cannot make any more mistakes like this down the stretch, especially on the defensive end of the court where they've been consistent throughout the season.
Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers
The Pacers averaged the third-most turnovers per game during the regular season (per Team Rankings). However, they were able to get away with a lot of the turnovers because they shot the ball well and created effective scoring opportunities during the possessions where they didn't turn the ball over.
This won't be the case as the series progresses.
The Pacers cannot commit 20 turnovers again and still expect to stay in the game. They were ranked 19th in the league in offensive efficiency during the regular season (per Hollinger's Team Stats), so points will not come easy for them against a good defensive team like the Heat.
Yes, the Heat turned the ball over just as much, but their top-ranked offensive efficiency covers up for a lot of mistakes. They can score the ball at will and still win a game on the offensive end of the floor by being efficient on the rest of their possessions.
This series will be a possession-by-possession game, as evidenced by Game 1. The Pacers will not last long if they continue to be careless with the basketball against a great team like the Heat.
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