There are many teams in the NBA who have fallen to the reigning champion Miami Heat. After winning 27 games in a row and having a 66 win season after your title season earns you this type of respect.
Having the best player in the world coupled with two other great players will earn you respect as well. But there is a difference between respect and fear–the Indiana Pacers know that.
The Pacers actually believe that they have a shot in winning this series. They aren’t afraid of the Miami Heat.
I’m not sure if any other team that the Heat have faced in the playoffs actually believed that they did outside of a few players.
Its obvious pushing the Miami Heat to a 4-2 series last year in the conference semifinals did wonders for this team’s confidence against the Heat. They believe that they can beat them and they actually have the formula to do so.
The way the Miami Heat played yesterday, the Pacers definitely have a shot to win this series with it tied 2-2.
After getting blown out in game 3 and getting destroyed by LeBron’s post work, the Pacers made the proper adjustments. They were quick to double James in the post instead of letting him single his defender out and get deep into the paint.
Because of the improper spacing of the Heat, there was no easy pass out of the double. Take a look at this screenshot:
James went 1-7 from the post for only four points. Compared to how he torched the Pacers with 14 points on 11 shots from the post in game 3, I think you can call this a success.
In game 3 there was either no help or it was late from only one extra player. Take a look at the screenshot below:
With late help, James was having a field day against the smaller Paul George in the post. In game 4 an adjustment was made to help and help early.
With the way that the floor is improperly spaced, there is no reason that the Pacers shouldn’t have been helping.
James’ passing lanes aren’t clear if everyone is stacked on one side of the floor. Balance is essential if you are going to post a player up and the Heat didn’t have that.
The Pacers shifted Miami back to their normal spread offense and forced them to try to penetrate over Roy Hibbert. That lead to an inefficient shooting night from the Heat–they only shot 39% from the field.
The Pacers took seven less shots but had five more makes. How did they do that? Simple. They outrebounded Miami 49-30 and had 19 second chance points. They also outscored Miami 50-32 in the paint.
The Pacers got all of these looks on the inside because of the Heat’s aggression on defense. If you follow me on twitter or read WLOTF, you probably realize I talk about this aggression all the time.
They aren’t the only team that does this, but they’re one of the only ones that are good at it. Most teams have shifted to the soft look on screens and allow their bigs to sag back.
The Heat will have their bigs hedging to prevent penetration instead of allowing it. The Los Angeles Clippers do this as well. The formula that the Pacers used to win last night was the same that the Grizzlies used in their series against the Clippers.
I don’t like aggressive pick and roll coverage because it forces players to get out of help and rebounding position in the name of forcing turnovers.
The Miami Heat are a team that can get away with it because of their elite athleticism on their wings and their smaller lineups.
When the opposing big comes out high and sets a screen, the Heat’s big, or whoever is playing a big position, is forced to come above the free throw line and hedge the ball handler. When the big dives into the paint, that leaves a 2-on-1 scenario down low in the paint.
Going even further, when the Pacers have the ball up high in a big’s hands the Heat bigs are required to put pressure on them and guard the ball.
In a soft coverage, the big would be allowed to sag back instead of coming up and defending the pass. The Heat are trying to force turnovers here and ignite the break, but it leaves them so vulnerable. Take a look at this video:
Its a 1-4 PnR between D.J Augustin and Tyler Hansbrough. Look at how high Shane Battier is forced to come up to hedge Augustin:
Because of how high Battier came out, it left Chris Bosh to deal with Tyler Hansbrough and Roy Hibbert. LeBron James is doing the right thing by coming over and helping in the paint, but the wide open corner three is being conceding. If he commits too much, he’d leave an NBA player wide open from the corner–a very dangerous risk to take.
Battier gets a chance to recover here and he does, but the problem is that Hansbrough is waiting at the rim ready to get the rebound when Battier returns. He can’t get the rebound because he’s sealed under the rim.
Battier is barely in a position to defend this shot, so Chris Anderson is forced to come over and try to block the shot–though he may have done so anyway. Now, no one is there to box out Roy Hibbert and that’s where you get all of these offensive rebounds and points in the paint from.
The Pacers are using size to their advantage in this series. They are one of the biggest teams in the NBA as far as size