Adjustments Frank Vogel Must Make to Save Indiana Pacers' NBA Finals Dreams

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Adjustments Frank Vogel Must Make to Save Indiana Pacers' NBA Finals Dreams
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Frank Vogel and the Pacers got waylaid by the Heat, 114-96 in Game 3.

Just like that, the Indiana Pacers trail the Miami Heat 1-2 with their NBA Finals aspirations taking another hit.

However, it isn't that big of a hit just yet as we are only three games into this best-of-seven Eastern Conference Finals. 

If Coach Frank Vogel and Indiana are to make a big statement against the defending NBA champions, they must make adjustments for Game 4 on Tuesday.

Neutralize LeBron James Down Low 

Reigning MVP LeBron James didn't finish with monster numbers in his postgame stat sheet22 points, four rebounds and three assists. 

And yet Miami blew out Indiana by 18. 

James used his bulk to out-muscle Paul George down low, scoring on several left-handed post-up moves against the 2013 NBA Most Improved Player. What made Miami's ploy even more dangerous was James' option to kick the ball out to either Chris Bosh or Udonis Haslem (who had a field day in Game 3) should the Pacers decide to double-team him.

As great a defender as Paul George is, James outweighs him by almost 30 pounds. If James continues to exploit this matchup in the post with continued success, perhaps Coach Vogel should have David West body up on LeBron only on post-up situations and have George cover Chris Bosh. 

This would be a bit of a gamble because Bosh has three inches on Paul George, so he might find it easy to shoot over him. However, George also has excellent defensive anticipation and can easily deny Bosh the basketball. 

On the other hand, if Indiana decides to stick to George guarding James in the post, Paul must do a better job in terms of ball denial. 

LeBron James helps dismantle the Pacers in Game 3 of the 2013 ECF.

Throw Udonis Haslem Off His Game

This was one thorn Coach Vogel and the Pacers didn't expect to inflict severe pain on them in Game 3. 

However, it seems Udonis Haslem has awakened from his offensive slumber. After producing just three points on 1-of-7 shooting in the first two games, Udonis is back on track. He, just like Chris "Birdman" Andersen in Game 1, produced the spark that Miami needed, finishing with 17 points on 8-of-9 shooting from the floor. 

The key to his success? Effective spacing on the floor. 

To which, Pacers center Roy Hibbert responded:

We had to pick our poison because (Heat center) Bosh was rolling, he was at the basket, I had to rotate and then Haslem got off. He was hitting a lot of shots that he normally wasn't hitting. He was letting me hear it. I have got to respond. I have to move my feet. 

If Udonis chooses to space the floor as well as he did in Game 3, the best option would be to force him to take outside shots which are out of his range. Make him consistently beat you with 20-foot jumpers without Hibbert having to sacrifice himself as a rim protector. 

If Haslem is given an open look from 17 feet and in, he can definitely make the Pacers pay.  

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Udonis Haslem (R) had a breakout game against the Pacers on Sunday.

No More Jackrabbit Starts for the Heat 

On the day of the Indianapolis 500, it was visiting Miami that stormed out of the gates. 

The Pacers dug themselves a huge hole by allowing the Heat to score 70 first-half points and commit just one turnover during that span. Per ESPN, Miami had 17 baskets within 10 feet of the rim which contributed to a gaudy 63 percent shooting clip during the game's first 24 minutes. 

The NBA's second-best defensive team during the regular season did not play to its potential. 

Once Miami's offense was in sync, Indiana just couldn't make major strides in catching up. Halsem and Bosh both found the range early. Mario Chalmers, who was quiet offensively in Game 2, wound up with 14.

He was more aggressive offensively as evidenced by his driving layup plus a foul on George Hill with 5:13 left in the third quarter to extend the Heat's lead back to 10. 

All five Heat starters finished with at least 14 points apiece, giving LeBron more weapons to choose from. 

That trend should stop in Game 4. 

The Heat dropped 70 points on the Pacers in the first half of Game 3.

Better Offensive Production From Lance Stephenson and Paul George 

Lance Stephenson has been the Pacers' missing link. 

Since his breakout Game 6 against the New York Knicks, he has gone into a bit of a funk. Although he did score 10 points in Game 2 in Miami, he was the focal point of several plays gone wild.

On Sunday, Stephenson shot just 2-of-10 from the field. If he can somehow pull off a Udonis Haslem out-of-nowhere scoring act in Game 4, it will definitely throw the Heat defense off. 

And then there was Paul George in Game 3. 

Of course, everything Miami did on offense was pretty much predicated on league MVP LeBron James who took his act down low in Game 3 as mentioned earlier. This seems to have worn out George on the offensive end who also had a rough shooting night (3-of-10 from the floor).  

Having David West take on LeBron in the post on defense can also help George ramp up his scoring. Guarding the game's best player in James all throughhout the series seems to have thrown George a bit off his offensive game (after scoring a combined 49 points in the first two games), which the Pacers desperately need. 

Paul George's second-half triple against the Miami Heat in Game 3 of the ECF.

Conclusion

The Pacers have their backs against the wall. Look for Miami to feed off their success with LeBron James in the post. This adjustment by the Heat paved the way for a Game 3 blowout, so David West bodying up on him when he posts up can help. 

Otherwise, if the Pacers stick to their guns and allow George to take on the bulkier James down low, Paul has to do a better job of denying LeBron the ball. 

The Pacers also have to force Udonis Haslem out of his comfort zone to prevent Miami from having another big start offensively.

Lastly, both Stephenson and Paul George have to be more productive on offense to give their team a legitimate shot of winning Game 4. 

It won't be an easy task to do all of these things, but if the Indiana Pacers make these key adjustments, the series will go back to square one and their chances of making it to the NBA Finals will improve. 

 

 

 

 

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