After a nail biter in the series opener, both the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers could stand to make adjustments for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
While Heat and Pacers fans would love to see their teams blow their opponents out on Friday night, impartial NBA fans can only hope the second game of the series is half as good as Game 1.
Wednesday night’s clash was an instant classic that had a little bit of every thing: buzzer-beaters by both team’s stars, a coaching chess match, some chippy play and a great playoff atmosphere.
This game was an example of what makes the NBA playoffs one of the best postseason experiences in sports.
That said, the job of Pacers’ coach, Frank Vogel, and Heat head man, Erik Spoelstra, is to find ways to make Game 2 a little less exciting for the masses.
Since the Pacers came out on the short end of the stick on Wednesday, the bigger burden falls on them to make changes.
Two Key Adjustments the Pacers Must Make
Take Better Care of the Basketball
Was it just me, or did George Hill looked overwhelmed by the pressure from the Heat’s perimeter players?
I guess I'm not alone. Nebraska Cornhuskers' senior big man Brandon Ubel noticed as well.
The Pacers’ point guard coughed up the ball three times and when he wasn’t turning it over, he looked out of sorts and failed to get the team into their offense quickly.
Miami plays ferocious defense on the perimeter. It is reminiscent of the doberman defense the Chicago Bulls used to play with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen
So Hill’s unsteadiness is somewhat understandable, but if the Pacers are going to win this series, they can’t turn the ball over 20 times as they did on Wednesday.
Hill wasn’t the biggest culprit of mishandling the pumpkin; Paul George had six miscues on the night.
While that is a big number, it is hard to come down too hard on King George. The man literally breathed life back into his team at the end of regulation and the overtime period.
He had 27 points, four rebounds, five assists, a buzzer beating three from 27 feet to force overtime and three clutch free throws in the extra session.
Hill was 2-for-9 with five points, I'm just saying.
Roy Hibbert’s Minutes Must Mirror LeBron James’ Time of the Floor
Even though George is the best defensive matchup for LeBron in the NBA, he still needs Hibbert’s presence behind him.
James is so explosive and smart; the moment Hibbert goes to the bench, he is ready to take advantage of the big man’s absence in the paint.
As a team, the Heat are perhaps the NBA’s biggest opportunists. Their ability to go on game-changing runs is usually precipitated by mad drives to the basket.
Once that is established, the three-point shooters get better and better looks.
Vogel sunk his team in Game 1 by taking Hibbert off the floor in the closing moments of overtime. Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix offers this "defense" of Vogel's decision.
The idea that he didn’t want to leave Hibbert on the floor to guard Chris Bosh doesn’t make much sense with only 2.2 seconds left in the game.
At best, Bosh would have been able to get off a jump shot after one or two dribbles produced a clean look. Maybe he makes that shot, but I’d live with that before I lived with this:
Per this quote from Vogel that was tweeted by Kurt Helin of Pro Basketball Talk, it seems the Pacers coach understands the error of his ways.
Hibbert’s huge, unathletic body should be on the floor every second James is. It is the only way to keep the MVP from completely taking over the game.
Two Key Adjustments the Heat Must Make
Make Free Throws
Indiana did a good job defending without fouling in Game 1. Hibbert was the only man on the roster with five fouls. Considering they were playing Miami at home and the game went into overtime, that is pretty impressive.
Miami was fortunate to come out on top of this game because they didn’t take advantage of the opportunities they had from the line.
As a team, they made just 64 percent of their foul shots. James was 4-for 7, Dwyane Wade was 1-for-4 and even Ray Allen missed a crucial free throw that left the door open for the Pacers in overtime.
Per NBA Legion, that clearly hasn't sat well with the career 89-percent free throw shooter.
Had the Heat shot just 70 percent from the line, this game probably doesn’t even go into overtime. They can’t afford to squander these opportunities again.
Get Bosh the Ball in Isolation Situations
While 2.2 seconds wasn’t enough time for Bosh to take advantage of Hibbert’s slow feet at the end of overtime, the Heat could do a better job getting their center the ball throughout the game.
While a traditional post up isn’t a good idea against the bigger, stronger Hibbert; Bosh could eat him alive (figuratively speaking) in isolation.
Hibbert can’t guard him out on the floor and this matchup will lead to easy buckets or early foul trouble for Hibbert. Both results would be excellent for the Heat.
If the Pacers switch, just about any player on the floor could take advantage of Hibbert’s slow feet. Bosh would then have the opportunity to post up a smaller defender.
Obviously, you don’t want to take the ball out of LeBron and Wade’s hands too much, but if the Heat run the offense through Bosh a little more, it will make playing Hibbert tougher for Vogel.
Follow me, because this series has me hyped and I'm bound to tweet about it