Indiana Pacers Can Pound Up Front, but Need Guard Help in Game 6 vs. Miami Heat
While Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert has gone through a renaissance in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat, asserting his dominance in the paint and proving that he can be one of the league's best big men, the team is having trouble finding consistency from their smaller guys.
Between Hibbert, Paul George and David West, the Pacers have a solid offensive hierarchy. Hibbert is leading the team with 22.6 points per game in the series, Paul George is at 20.2 points, and David West is knocking in 18.2 points.
What they have is an acknowledged advantage in the paint, so they're going to Hibbert for 15 shot attempts per game, even after he averaged just 10.9 during the regular season.
The big man is stepping up and making the most of his enormous size advantage over Miami, shooting 54.7 percent, compared to a meager 44.8 percent during the regular season.
From there is George, who has started to really recognize the flow of the game.
When he finds himself with Ray Allen defending, George will make an attempt to create space and take what amounts to an open jumper off the dribble. If that's not working, he can look to drive, which has led to a large bump up in field-goal percentage for him as well.
If it's LeBron James standing in his way, the young fellow will probe a bit, but he won't try to force something spectacular just to make a play. He's not afraid to pass it off and give somebody else a look.
Then of course there's West, who has become the perfect mix of a floor spacer—with his 16-footer—and a post bruiser, mostly due to the fact that he's a big, mean man.
Game 5 was the ultimate display of Indiana's top-heavy approach, as Hibbert, George and West scored 66 of the team's 79 points.
In all, those three players have accounted for 305 of Indiana's 473 points this series, meaning there are a few players who have been woefully underperforming.
George Hill, the team's third-leading scorer during the regular season, has impressed in the middle three games of the series, but then disappeared in two of Indiana's three losses, combining for six measly points in Game 1 and 5.
Hill's shooting has been incredibly inconsistent throughout the series, leading to these huge dips in production. He's going to need to be more reliable in Game 6 if the Pacers hope to extend the series.
His backup, D.J. Augustin, might as well have not even existed in the past five games. He was never amazing during the regular season, but his non-factor status throughout the playoffs has been a problem.
Held scoreless in the past two games, Augustin has scored just 13 points in almost 80 minutes on the floor in the conference finals. He's serving no purpose other than letting Hill take a breather every now and then.
Of course, there's also Lance Stephenson, who has registered some impressive defense on LeBron at times but has hurt his team with the offensive inconsistency.
After scoring 20 points and leading the team to a win in Game 4 (along with Hibbert and his 23 points), Stephenson came out and made just two of seven shots, scoring four points in Game 5.
It's no surprise that Indiana lost, especially since it got a combined five points from its top three guards.
In the three losses against the Heat, Stephenson and Hill have combined to average just 14.3 points on 13-of-50 shooting. In wins, the two came together to average 33.5 points on 47.9 percent shooting.
That's a bit of a difference.
Much of the talk surrounding Game 6 has been the suspension dealt to Chris Andersen after he went out of his way to shove Tyler Hansbrough to the ground in Game 5.
With Andersen yet to miss a shot in the series, the notion has been that he's playing a solid all-around game. With him out, the Pacers should be able to pound the ball in the post and take advantage of the even smaller Heat.
Well, the loss will hurt the Heat a bit offensively and rebounding-wise, but it's not as big a blow as it seems on defense.
Heat have been outscored by 3.1 points per 48 minutes in conference finals with Chris Andersen on court (+7.8 w/ him off court).— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 1, 2013
It doesn't matter which big man they put on him (Andersen, Chris Bosh, Udonis Haslem, Joel Anthony), Hibbert has been having a romp in the post.
This doesn't change much of anything for the Pacers from an offensive standpoint, which is where they really need to try to have a more complete game.
Hibbert is still going to be able to get working in the paint, especially with the spacing that West and George create.
Indiana can win with those three doing a majority of the work, but it would have to mean a near-perfect defensive game.
If Stephenson and Hill can find themselves in the same mindset they were in during Games 2 and 4, Indiana should have a great shot at extending this series to seven games.
All statistics are from Basketball-Reference unless stated otherwise.
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