The Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers played a playoff game last night that will probably go down as one of the better playoff games this season. It had everything you could’ve wanted.
The best player in the league going up against one of the greatest defenders in the league; the best defense in the league going against a top offense in the league; really, what more could you want?
With that being said, the ending of the game ended up being very exciting, yet, sobering in the same breathe. LeBron James makes a go-ahead layup to close the game out on the final play.
Considering that a questionable call just a few seconds before this one gave the Pacers the lead, this game winner was very anti-climatic.
Hell, the game even went into overtime off of a deep three from Paul George in regulation. The layup seemed to come in a manner of such ease, you could easily be disappointed by the games finish.
There were a few keys factors going into this final play. There were costly decisions being made by the Pacers all over the place. Against this Miami Heat team, only one simple mistake can result in a loss.
Even though the Pacers almost won this game, they can’t help but feel disappointed in the way that they lost this one.
Before we get into the factors, lets roll the tape of the play:
The first key factor here is Roy Hibbert being taken out of the game by Frank Vogel. This was the second time within the minute that Vogel took Hibbert out–we’ll get into my theory why soon. It comes with one of the next factors.
The next factor is probably the most important in this sequence. Paul George overplays LeBron James’ on the catch which allows James a clear driving lane to the rim.
Instead of playing in front of him, George oddly tries to get around James and make the hero play. Once James makes the catch, he already has George on his hip. With his speed and size, there’s no way for George to get back in front of him.
Another thing here. There is no one in the paint, literally. Take a look at this screenshot of LeBron driving.
This lane is wide open because, well, there really is no reason for it. The truth is that with less than three seconds on the clock, teams are allowed to freely zone up and clog the paint. Norris Cole is a nonshooter. There’s no reason that George Hill shouldn’t have been in the paint.
This is also a moment where Roy Hibbert would’ve been pivotal. His rim protection would’ve been key here. As you can see in the screenshot above, Sam Young is coming over to help late and by the end of the play he decides there is nothing he can do.
Getting back to the Roy Hibbert point, a lot of people have said that Chris Bosh would’ve had a wide open jumpshot because Hibbert isn’t mobile enough to come and protect the rim and recover to Bosh in the same play.
First of all, Hibbert has enough length and size that the passing lane would still be clogged when Hibbert comes over. Bosh would have to step back even farther to get into James’ vision for an easier pass.
And still, say James does pass it to Bosh. Lets take a look at that screen shot again:
James would have to make the pass right here at this moment. There are 1.5 seconds left on the clock for him to make that pass, for Bosh to catch and for him to shoot. Obviously, there is some merit to those who say Bosh would have a wide open jumper, but what would you rather give up a midrange jumpshot or a layup?
There’s no guarantee that the pass would’ve been accurate and Bosh wouldn’t have fumbled it. Anything that took time off of the clock could’ve happened here. I’d take my chances on an 8-foot Chris Bosh jumper that he makes 32% of the time than a layup from LeBron James that he makes 78% of the time.
Getting back to why Hibbert wasn’t in the game, here is my theory. The Indiana Pacers were switching Ray Allen’s screens. Vogel knew that Chris Bosh, who was being guarded by Tyler Hansbrough, was going to set a screen for Ray Allen.
Hibbert isn’t mobile enough to switch on Allen and fight through another screen. Lets take a look at the first screen for Allen:
Now Hansbrough finishes the possession on Allen and there is no big in the lane. Even though LeBron provided a screen for Allen, George didn’t switch off of this screen by design. So with the big pulled all the way to the corner James had a wide open lane.
Now, the final factor that I’d like to get into is the inbound pass. David West did a terrible job defending the pass and made it easy for Shane Battier to pass it into LeBron. Take a look:
David West gave too much room to Shane Battier here on this inbound pass. The goal is to force LeBron to come out as close to halfcourt as possible. You can do that by taking away the easy passing angle for David West to get James the ball.
Battier ends up getting him the ball and you know how it goes from there. At the end of the day, there were too many defensive mistakes made by the Indiana Pacers. With the best player in the league on the floor, you can’t make these mistakes.