5 Things Miami Heat Must Clean Up in Game 2 vs. Indiana Pacers
If you covered the teams' respective practices Thursday, you might have been led to believe otherwise.
While the Pacers spoke confidently of their position, following a 103-102 overtime loss, the Heat sounded as if they had narrowly avoided calamity. No one seemed especially proud of anything that had occurred in Game 1, other than the ability to persevere and produce the desired outcome.
"We have to play better," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
He has been saying that for some time, even as Miami has won 46 of its past 49 games overall—including nine of 10 during the postseason.
"We know we can get better," LeBron James said, a day after saving the Heat with a buzzer-beating layup in overtime. "We watched the film. We had 20-plus turnovers, which is uncharacteristic of us, some miscues defensively. And they could say the same thing."
Certainly, the Pacers need more from their guards than they got in Game 1. They'll need to do a better job countering Chris Andersen, who made all seven of his shot attempts for Miami. They'll need to sort out their late-game defense, whether it's their coach Frank Vogel keeping Roy Hibbert in the game, or Paul George playing more fundamentally sound.
So what do the Heat need to do?
Five things will suffice.
(All quotes for this piece were collected over the course of the author's coverage of the Miami Heat for the Palm Beach Post.)
5. Some Slippage from Norris Cole
Norris Cole is just 24 years old.
It's easy to forget that at times, in light of his maturity. He has earned his way into the Miami Heat's regular rotation due to a work ethic that is unsurpassed among his veteran teammates.
The former high school salutatorian listens, learns, applies and improves.
Against Chicago, he averaged 11.0 points on 69 percent shooting.
In Game 1 against the Indiana Pacers, he continued playing dynamic on-ball defense, frustrating both George Hill and D.J. Augustin, and nearly forcing a critical turnover late in regulation.
At times, however, his offense was an out-of-control adventure.
Cole, playing a heavy dose of minutes (29) with Mario Chalmers sidelined due to a mildly bruised shoulder, was a minus-nine, compared to plus-eight for Chalmers.
The second-year point guard had four assists and four rebounds, but made just 1-of-4 shots while committing five turnovers.
The Pacers hardly felt his presence, except when—while trying to dribble into the clear—he elbowed David West in the groin.
The Heat must hope he connects on other sorts of shots in Game 2.
4. Chris Bosh's Rebound Regression
If any rebound will be remembered from Game 1 of the 2013 Eastern Conference finals, it will be the one Chris Bosh grabbed with 49.7 seconds left in the overtime.
It came after Shane Battier badly missed a rushed 25-footer.
It was followed by a putback, a foul and a free throw to give the Miami Heat a tie.
As Bosh recalled: “We were down three and we were flat a little bit. I think that gave us a little bit of life."
It also gave Bosh a break from what would have been two days of questioning about where he had been on the boards.
The Heat don't expect to outrebound the bigger Indiana Pacers. They simply want to stay close in the category. They did so in Game 1, with only one fewer offensive rebound (16 vs. 17) and five fewer rebounds overall (38 vs. 43).
Nor do the Heat expect Bosh to replicate the 19-rebound performance he produced in Game 3 against Chicago—not when so much of his responsibility in this series revolves around pulling Roy Hibbert away from the basket.
Still, it is reasonable to expect more than two rebounds in 36 minutes.
And it is reasonable to expect more than 12 rebounds in four games, which is what Bosh has posted against Indiana this season.
3. Scattershot Performance from the Shooters
When has Shane Battier endured a shooting slump?
"Last year," Battier said.
The whole season?
"Pretty much," Battier said.
Battier is in another one in the playoffs, at least when compared to his proficiency during the 2012-13 regular season. Oddly, this is the inverse situation from last season, when he struggled to find his legs and then unleashed long-range fury on postseason opponents—especially the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA Finals.
"I don't beat myself up over it too much," Battier said. "If I have good attempts, I'm OK with it. Last night, I thought two of my shots were good, the other two were poor."
He missed all four, dropping him to 13-for-54 in the playoffs, or 24.1 percent.
Ray Allen, meanwhile, was 1-of-4 from behind the arc in Game 1, and 0-for-4 from inside of it. He also missed a critical free throw in the final minute of regulation.
Allen then spent an hour after practice shooting 102 free throws, making 100.
"You always have to revisit this floor," Allen said. "I call it the lab. You have to make sure you do what you have to do, especially this time of year.”
His track record as a shooter is better than Battier's, but it's just as important the latter—including Mario Chalmers and Udonis Haslem—make their open shots anywhere from 12 to 25 feet.
Battier didn't seem concerned:
"What usually happens for me is it's like a hitter in baseball. If you make one small adjustment, something clicks. It's just a matter of going through the process. If I do this, this makes me feel real good."
It would make the Heat feel better if he hit a few.
2. Too Many Turnovers
When it comes to turnovers, that's the number the Miami Heat set as their ceiling.
They'd rather not match that number over the course of an entire game, let alone exceed it.
In Game 1 against the Indiana Pacers, they reached it in the first half.
That made Erik Spoelstra feel like reaching for antacid:
"The discipline and the focus, it's not where it needed to be. Offensively, some of the things we did very well. We got to our game, but we were throwing the ball all over the building, and a lot of it was just a lack of fundamentals or concentration. We can take care of the ball and be more efficient than we were."
They did, and were, in the second half and overtime, cutting the turnover count to seven.
And, in truth, some of the turnovers came on offensive fouls in a game that was called too tightly.
Still, 20 is too many.
While Norris Cole was the major culprit, with five, all of the Heat's rotation players had at least one. LeBron James had four. Dwyane Wade had three. Udonis Haslem had two.
So how did the Heat escape?
Well, the Pacers had 20, too.
1. David West's Continuing Destruction
Udonis Haslem wasn't mentioned in many postgame wrap-ups, after the Miami Heat's Game 1 win against the Indiana Pacers.
That hardly seemed fair, after he did the impossible: forcing David West into a miss.
With 49.7 seconds left in overtime, and the game tied at 99, Erik Spoelstra inserted Haslem for Shane Battier. On the ensuing possession, Haslem was on an island with West once more.
“Just tried to stay between him and the basket, keep a body on him,” Haslem said. “He likes to create space by backing down and using the body. When he raised up, I just tried to contest the shot."
West's 17-foot jumper fell short.
It would have been forgivable to fall over in shock.
It came on a night in which West scored 26 more points against Miami—raising his average to 23.5 on 65 percent shooting in four games this season.
Four different players took turns on West in Game 1, and none had consistent success. It's become so obvious that Pacers coach Frank Vogel said bluntly, "The power forward matchup in this series is one we have to take advantage of."
They're well on their way.
Now, Spoelstra needs to find an answer for more than one possession.
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