Five takeaways from the Pacers’ Game 1 loss in Miami
The Pacers fell in overtime to the Heat Wednesday night in Miami 103-102. The defending champions have 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series for the conference title. LeBron James recorded a triple-double – 30 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. Indiana’s Paul George forced overtime with a 3-pointer from 32-feet out and he hit three free throws in the final seconds that would have won it, if not for James scoring just before the final buzzer sounded.
Below are five takeaways from Game 1.
1) Roy Hibbert must be in the game late — or really as much as possible. He was pulled and replaced by Sam Young with 24.8 seconds left in overtime. 10 seconds later, LeBron James beat George Hill, who defended James on a switch with George, for an easy right-handed layup. Not another 10 seconds later, James had a layup on the other side, this one for the Game 1 victory. I don’t believe James would have even attempted the first layup, seeing Hibbert hanging out in the lane. As for the game-winner, who knows, because James may have forced contact or tried to dunk over him. You just don’t know and not knowing will irritate the Pacers. Vogel knows the decision was costly and afterwards he said that he’d “probably have (Hibbert) in next time.”
Hibbert was honest postgame but he also took the high road. “It was gut-wrenching, but I have total faith in the guys out there on the court,” he said. “Maybe I should have been out there for the last possession … but I have complete faith in Coach’s decisions.”
2) Paul George is a great defender, but he’s still learning. He’s had the difficult task of depending the opponent’s best wing and he’s been very successful. During the playoffs, it was Josh Smith, then Carmelo Anthony and now LeBron James. George finished eighth in voting for Defensive Player of the Year and was named to the NBA’s All-Defensive Second Team.
But he’s still growing and learning through repetitions. Remember, Ian Mahinmi was the only Pacer that had played in the conference finals, and his minutes in 2011 with Dallas were limited. Referencing the Heat’s last two offensive possessions, George switched with Hill on James’ first layup and then played him too tight on the final play.
“I was up too close on [James],” he said postgame. “You have to make him shoot a jumper. That’s what we wanted. We wanted LeBron to shoot a jumper right there.”
3) Turnovers nearly cost the Pacers anyway. Before Paul George could heave the ball up and Dwyane Wade was called for a questionable foul while George was in the act of shooting a 3-point – George hit all three putting the Pacers up one – Hill just about lost the ball on the inbounds play. He fell to the ground, managed to pry it from the defender and toss it up George. The Pacers were fortunate that the Heat were loose with the ball as well. 20 turnovers not only are 20 wasted possessions but they often lead to easier scoring opportunities for the opponent. The Heat, who gave it up 21 times tonight, scored 22 points off of the Pacers’ giveaways. That’s my No. 1 key for the Pacers’ to win in this series and I’m sticking to it.
“We left a couple too many plays out there on the floor.” — David West
4) Ray Allen is past his prime … and he must hate playing the Pacers. He has struggled, to put it nicely, against the Blue and Gold. During the regular season, he went scoreless in two of the three meetings. He has failed to score in just one other game of his illustrious 17-year career. In the three regular season contests, Allen was 3-of-16. In Wednesday’s nail-biting win, he had four points on 1-of-8 shooting to bring his season average shooting percentage against the Pacers to 16.6 percent (4-for-24).
5) Chris “Birdman” Andersen was an excellent mid-season pickup for the Heat. He was just the type of the player they needed — a high-energy, tenacious rebounder with active arms around the basket. The Birdman was terrific in Game 1. He scored 16 points (on 7-of-7 shooting), grabbed five rebounds and blocked three shots in just 18 minutes of action. The Pacers must account for him moving forward.
Quote to note: “We got to feel good about how we played, you know. At this point every possession counts. And that’s what we’ve got to understand. Myself included. You know, a couple of turnovers that I wish we could take back — I could take back. But the margin of error is so small at this level, so going into Game 2, we just got to improve off that.” – Pacers swingman Paul George
Game 2 in Miami is on Friday at 8:30 PM EST.