Indiana’s style of ball is nothing to take lightly in these playoffs.
They’ve shown they can serve it up to the league’s best teams. Defensively, they have few equals and through the first two games of the Eastern Conference Finals against defending-champs Miami, Indy proved their defense was second to none.
Helping the cause was the ineptitude of Miami’s players outside of “The Big Three.” The Pacers were able to clamp down on those guys a bit more because, outside of Birdman Anderson, nobody was carrying their weight.
It was expected that as soon as Miami’s bench players stepped up to add some offensive punch, Indiana would have to get more creative to match Miami’s scoring ability. In Game 3 the brigade came and the Pacers couldn’t handle it.
It shouldn’t be that much of a surprise that they lost a game in which Miami scored 114 points. A game with that type of offensive flow favors Miami all day, and really magnifies the difference between the two teams.
The Pacers are at their best when controlling the game’s tempo and making opponents adjust to their style of play. They had to figure that after Game 2, Miami would make adjustments. LeBron came out of the gate and established a post presence, and the “team” effort that Miami was lacking returned. The Heat's five starters scored in double-figures and forward Udonis Haslem scored a playoff-high 17 points. Surprise performances like Haslem’s is what Indiana needs.
Going forward Pacers coach Frank Vogel will have to utilize more of his “other starters,” and bench same way Miami has. Indy needs to figure out who can provide some more points and they need to figure it out fast. Sure, you can say the defense failed Indiana, but how realistic is it to expect any team to check Miami’s offense consistently?
"If you're not perfect guarding them, they'll do what they did to us tonight," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said.
Well, part of becoming a champion is being able to be chameleon-like. Indiana’s been staunchly sticking with the script and is consequently in a 2-1 hole. It’s on Vogel to shake things up and keep the series legit.
Roy Hibbert’s inspired play has been a Godsend and Paul George has been getting superstar acclaim. Unfortunately, when you are playing a multi-faceted squad like Miami, you have to be able to switch styles like Dwyane Wade switches outfits.
George isn’t quite ready to be Kobe Bryant on a nightly basis. That’s an unfair request for a cat that wasn’t even the best player on his team before Danny Granger went down.
Vogel has to change the dynamics of the series and allow some other cats to flex their skills.
Lance Stephenson is being underutilized. He has deft penetration abilities and can handle the rock and distribute. At about 6-6, he’s a mismatch problem for shorter guards. Vogel needs to let him push the rock and go to the rack more. When George Hill and P. George are missing from the outside, the Pacers offense gets stagnant. Against the Knicks, D.J. Augustin came off the bench to spark the offense several times. He needs to be allowed to get busy in this series as well. Vogel’s making the same mistake Mike Woodson made by abandoning guys like Steve Novak and Chris Copeland, dudes who can provide temporary relief to the burdened offensive stars.
The playoffs are no time to contract your creativity and limit your options—especially against Miami, who is unlikely to lose to anybody four times in a seven game series as it is.
The only chance Indiana has of winning is perfect execution and elevated performances from some unlikely characters. It’s time to roll the dice and pull out all of the stops. Miami made the first move. Now, the Pacers have to counter.