The Indiana Pacers defeated the Miami Heat 107-96 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals Sunday afternoon.
All five Pacers starters finished in double figures in the wire-to-wire win as Indiana shot 51.5 percent from the field and 42.1 percent from three.
This is the 2nd time the Pacers have been over 100 in playoffs. Scored 101 in G2 vs. Atlanta. Under 90 four times.— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) May 18, 2014
Pacers now have their highest scoring game in regulation since Feb. 25 (and that was against the Lakers).— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) May 18, 2014
Conversely, the Heat shot 51.3 percent from the field and 26.1 percent (6-of-23) from beyond the arc, boasting four double-figure scorers.
After setting the tone with a 30-point outburst in the first quarter, the Pacers continued to impose their will on offense, outscoring Miami in three of the game's four frames (Miami won the fourth, 26-24).
The team that wins Game 1 of a best-of-7 NBA playoff series wins the series 77 percent of the time— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 18, 2014
A major reason why was Indiana's ability to get to the free-throw line at a fantastic clip.
The Pacers wound up shooting 29-of-37 from the charity stripe (78.4 percent), while Miami made a grand total of 15 trips to the line, converting on 10 of its freebies.
Miami is 4-0 in the Big 3 era when losing Game 1 (CHI 2011, OKC 2012, CHI 2013, SAS 2013).— Kevin Pelton (@kpelton) May 18, 2014
Players are graded on a conventional A-to-F scale, with each contributor starting at a C and moving up or down based on the quality of his performance.
However, it's important to note role players and reserves are graded on a curve due to their smaller allotment of minutes.
Key Players: Miami Heat
LeBron James, Small Forward
LeBron James' postseason numbers entering Sunday were simply gaudy. There's really no other way to describe them.
Averaging 30 points, 7.1 rebounds and 4.7 assists while shooting 56.4 percent from the field and posting a player efficiency rating of 32.9 according to ESPN's Hollinger stats, through nine playoff games, James has been nothing short of dominant.
LeBron James is shooting 77% in the paint this postseason. Here's his shooting chart from playoffs pic.twitter.com/1hNfGovAU4— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 18, 2014
And he's made it look way too easy.
But boy, did LeBron look disengaged as the Heat stumbled out of the gate. Three turnovers in the game's first six minutes marred James' start as Miami's offense lacked the flow and energy necessary to fluster Indiana.
LeBron James with 3 turnovers in 1st 6 minutes. He'd committed 4 total 1st-quarter turnovers in 2014 playoffs entering the day— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 18, 2014
That didn't last long, though.
James attacked the rack repeatedly, and his emphatic transition flush courtesy of Mario Chalmers helped cap a 10-6 Miami run that closed the gap to five.
The offense was strong and efficient, as always, but LeBron's post defense emerged as a concern as the game wore on.
Not only was David West going to work in the post, but Lance Stephenson also showed no fear of attacking him down low.
Oh My. Lance just iso’d in the post on LeBron. He really did. And he scored. With the left. He really did. #PacersVsHeat— BBALLBREAKDOWN (@bballSource) May 18, 2014
In order for Miami to salvage a split at Bankers Life Fieldhouse and gain home-court advantage, James has to lead a defensive revolution of sorts that results in his group entering with a more focused, disciplined mindset.
His grade won't dip below average thanks to 25 points (11-of-18 shooting, 1-of-5 from three), 10 rebounds, five assists and three steals, but his shaky defense overshadowed a statistically solid afternoon.
Dwyane Wade, Shooting Guard
After averaging 17 points per game on 50 percent shooting while recording 23 makes in the paint in four wins against the Pacers during the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals, per NBA.com, it became clear the Heat needed Dwyane Wade at his aggressive best to solve Indiana's defense.
Wade's 13 first-half points tied a game high (LeBron had 13, as well), but his lackadaisical tendencies in the pick-and-roll allowed the Pacers to pick the Heat apart by shooting 59.5 percent from the field over the game's first 24 minutes.
One of four Heat players who finished in double figures, Wade did well to score 27 points on 12-of-18 shooting, but a plus/minus rating of minus-nine and some really spotty defense dropped his grade a bit at the end of the day.
Chris Bosh, Center
With the Heat starting Shane Battier over Udonis Haslem, Chris Bosh needed to assume the burden of locking down Roy Hibbert in the post.
Starting Battier over Haslem puts more pressure on Bosh. Hasn't typically been his best against Indiana.— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) May 18, 2014
And after posting a PER of 11.6 during last year's Eastern Conference Finals, per RealGM, Bosh really needed to assert himself from the jump.
The sad reality is that Bosh couldn't muster a performance worthy of praise, as he often appeared reluctant to fire away from mid-range after a 1-of-4 start from the field (0-of-2 from three).
While the reluctance resulted in four assists, nine points on 4-of-12 shooting (0-of-5 from three) isn't going to cut it against such a strong frontcourt.
He was also battered in the post by the Pacers' tandem of Hibbert and West, making Sunday one of his worst playoff games in recent memory.
One of the worst two-way games I can ever remember Chris Bosh playing.— Jared Dubin (@JADubin5) May 18, 2014
One number to reflect that sentiment? Bosh finished with a team-worst plus/minus rating of minus-16.
Shane Battier, Power Forward
Grabbing the start in lieu of Haslem, Battier grabbed the unenviable assignment of defending Paul George for much of the first quarter.
The task was admittedly daunting for the physically overmatched Battier, but he did a decent job of holding his own on the perimeter against George.
As we've come to expect, Battier didn't do anything that jumped out statistically, but we've never really quantified his performances based on simple box-score metrics.
Spoelstra notes that Battier's overall number was positive. Won't reveal starter for Game 2 yet.— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) May 18, 2014
All told, he finished with three points (converting on his only attempt) in 16 minutes after Haslem assumed a larger role in the second half.
Mario Chalmers, Point Guard
Chalmers was in an attacking mood with the Pacers imposing their offensive will on the Heat early during Game 1, which resulted in two first-quarter blocks and three points. However, the aggression also led to two fouls in Chalmers' first nine minutes on the floor.
That start really came to define Chalmers' entire afternoon, which was characterized by few highs and several lows, including a flagrant foul on C.J. Watson three minutes into the fourth quarter.
Mario Chalmers shoves CJ Watson out of bounds https://t.co/MRpyKaKXez— gifdsports (@gifdsports) May 18, 2014
Six points on 2-of-9 shooting, five assists, two rebounds and two blocks comprised the point guard's most noteworthy contributions, but he was far too erratic against a more composed Pacers unit.
Ray Allen, Sixth Man
A commendable effort from Ray Allen here.
As the Pacers thrived from beyond the arc, the Heat floundered, and Ray Allen tried as hard as he could to correct Miami's shooting woes.
In 30 minutes, Allen generated 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting (2-of-6 from three) to go with five rebounds and four assists.
And he wasn't lying.
Ten players saw minutes for the Heat on Sunday, including Haslem, James Jones, Chris Andersen and Norris Cole.
As noted above, Haslem's role expanded as Miami sought to limit Indiana's interior dominance, but he couldn't lock up Hibbert the way Spoelstra was hoping.
Conversely, Andersen was exceptional, totaling 14 points and four boards to go with a huge swat of Hibbert, while Cole and Jones both went scoreless.
Greg Oden was inactive, and it'll be interesting to see if that becomes a trend after Miami was bludgeoned continually on the interior.
Key Players: Indiana Pacers
Paul George, Small Forward
George wasn't always option No. 1 on offense to start, but that didn't prevent him from making an impact with decisive ball movement.
Two three-pointers were the highlight of George's first-half production, but five assists in his first 13 minutes helped display his evolving offensive versatility.
With Indiana's scoring evenly distributed, George did well to rack up 24 points (7-of-13 shooting, 3-of-6 from three) and seven assists.
Given his frustrating inconsistency during the second round of the playoffs, George's all-around excellence and plus/minus rating of plus-11 bode well for Indiana's prospects should it maintain a similar offensive rhythm in the games ahead.
Lance Stephenson, Shooting Guard
Following a generally underwhelming showing in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Pacers needed Lance Stephenson to step up against Wade.
And considering Stephenson went out of his way to discuss Wade's shaky knee, there was added pressure on the swingman to deliver.
"D. Wade, his knee is kind of messed up, so I have to be extra aggressive and make him run," Stephenson said, according to Pacers.com.
However, those words may have motivated Wade just a bit. Miami's second-leading scorer opened with nine points on a tidy 4-of-5 shooting, as he looked to take Stephenson off the dribble continually.
The good news is that Stephenson held his own on offense, as the matchup appeared to ignite Indiana's biggest X-factor on both ends of the floor.
He went on to score 17 points on 8-of-12 shooting while dropping a game-high eight dimes and pulling down four rebounds in a controlled and efficient effort.
Roy Hibbert, Center
The Pacers wanted to try to establish Hibbert early and often, posting him up on Bosh down on the right block.
Establishing optimal position deep in the post, Hibbert was able to get off some good looks, although they didn't fall with regularity.
If shots weren't falling, though, Hibbert was typically put in strong enough spots that he could draw fouls, which is how he was able to post 19 points in 39 minutes.
Hibbert went on to shoot 9-of-13 from the free-throw line (and 5-of-13 from the field) while providing stout post defense. Nine rebounds capped yet another superb effort against the Heat.
The Pacers are 5-0 this postseason when Hibbert scores at least 10 points— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 18, 2014
His 13 attempts from the free-throw line were two fewer than Miami racked up as a team.
David West, Power Forward
Matched up primarily against James, David West had to channel all of his strength and tenacity in order to stand up to one of the game's most physically imposing players below the free-throw line.
West was hardly the center of Indiana's offense like he was in Game 6 against the Washington Wizards, but he tried to make the most of his looks, scoring 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting thanks to a fearless approach.
In sum, Sunday provided us with a familiar refrain: When West is in a groove and stroking the rock confidently from mid-range, Indiana's offense appears to settle into a nice rhythm. We should also note that West stepped up by grabbing seven rebounds and dropping three dimes.
The interior passing between David West and Roy Hibbert has been huge for the Pacers. The Heat are already at a disadvantage with the size.— Jared Zwerling (@JaredZwerling) May 18, 2014
If the Pacers can continue to keep West involved with a steady dose of low- and high-post looks, they'll be in good shape moving forward.
George Hill, Point Guard
Five straight points from George Hill to open Game 1 was a promising sign for a streaky Indiana offense.
Eleven points in fewer than nine minutes in the first quarter comprised more than three-quarters of his postseason average, and three triples helped the Pacers start 5-of-6 from beyond the arc.
Hill's production would understandably slow up as Indiana's weapons all received their regular fill of touches, but it was nice to see the floor general get his team in a groove from beyond nice and early.
Displaying excellent patience on offense, Hill took what the defense gave him on the perimeter and tallied 15 points (3-of-9 shooting, 3-of-7 from three) while failing to record an assist.
C.J. Watson, Sixth Man
Watson's postseason has been marked by inconsistent offensive showings (averaging 6.5 points on 42.3 percent shooting entering Game 1), which is what made his seven first-half points so surprising.
Given that he exceeded his average in such a short span, we're willing to throw Watson some generous marks after an afternoon that saw the Pacers flourish in all areas against Miami's flimsy defense.
His final line of 11 points (3-of-4 shooting from the field, 4-of-6 from the line), four rebounds and an assist marked his highest-scoring outing since Game 5 against the Atlanta Hawks.
Vogel's been reluctant to go use his full complement of second-unit bodies throughout the postseason, but Evan Turner's absence due to strep throat forced Indiana's head man to adjust on the fly.
Rasual Butler eared playing time in place of Turner and failed to contribute a single point in nine minutes off the pine. Chris Copeland is still wondering what he needs to do to get on the floor outside of garbage time.
Luis Scola was steady in 14 minutes, compiling two points and five rebounds, but he was the only reserve outside of Watson who entered the scoring column Sunday afternoon.
Given how stupendous Indiana's starters were, Vogel didn't need his second unit to step up this time around.
What's Up Next?
Game 2 will get underway at 8:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday. The contest will be broadcast on ESPN. The series then shifts to Miami for Game 3, which will tip off at 8:30 p.m. ET on Saturday.