Monday, May 26, 2014

Pacers offer little resistance to Heat

The visiting Pacers lost to the Miami Heat 102-90 Monday night in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals. The Heat lead the series 3-1 with Game 5 set for 8:30 Wednesday night in Indiana.
Yes, it's true if you look at the box score and see that the Pacers were only down five at halftime, but really there was never a time in this game where it looked like the Pacers really had a chance to win. These were two disappointing games in Miami, not simply because the Pacers lost, but because really they didn't put up the kind of consistent challenge that a mature playoff team should in these situations. There have been little mistakes, especially in these last two games, that the defending champions took full advantage of. Whether it was miscommunication on defending the pick and roll, not getting back on defense after a made free throw, not getting the rebound after a good defensive stand, or not doing what works on offense consistently, the Paces simply have not consistently done what they needed to compete at a high level. Sure, the Heat do have LeBron James, and there's no question that he is the best player in the NBA, but the Pacers have allowed too many of his teammates to look better than they really are. The Pacers passion simply did not go with them to Miami. Hopefully it will be with them in Indianapolis.
The Big Plays
The Pacers had no answer for LeBron James
 and the Heat in Monday night's defeat.
There were a lot of them for the Heat in this game, but when they came out and started the second half with an 8-1 run and the Pacers didn't respond, that was pretty much it for this one. Maybe the Heat's dominance was earmarked by James hitting a 3-pointer with the shot clock expiring and David West all over him.
The Ups
1) The two Pacers who did play well in this one were George Hill and Luis Scola. They combined to hit 11 of 18 shots for 27 points. It was the second straight game where Scola provided the Pacers with some much-needed offense off the bench. Maybe we will see some more combinations of Scola on the floor with most of the starters in Game 5.
2) Roy Hibbert didn't do a lot right in this game, but when he kept Ray Allen from continuing on to the basket well after the whistle had blown, it was one of the best things I've seen in these two games in Miami. That kind of attitude from the Pacers is something that should have been happening the whole series.
The Downs
1) If you tried to convince someone that the Pacers are a team built on defense, and they had watched just this series, you would have a losing argument. The Heat shot 46 percent. their worst shooting game of the series and that's not a good thing for the Pacers. Coming in to the series, the Pacers should have hoped that 46 percent would be the Heat's best shooting game of the series.
2) Lance Stephenson is a young and talented player and the Pacers need to find a way re-sign him for next year. However, when it comes to talking about the Heat, whether it's Dwayne Wade and his supposedly bad knees, or getting into LeBron James' head, Stephenson needs to quiet it down.
3) And speaking of Stephenson, he and Roy Hibbert had combined for one point in much of this game, before Stephenson got some late baskets to finish with nine points. The Pacers though, are going to have  hard time winning when both Hibbert and Stephenson give them almost nothing on offense. The Heat are good enough on defense when everyone is contributing, but if two of the starters can't be considered serious threats, then that just makes the job that much easier for the Heat defense.
4) To be clear, the responsibility for the Pacers loss falls squarely on their shoulders. However, there were some calls against the Pacers that were mystifying. It was good that Pacers coach Frank Vogel got a technical to try and get a message across, but I wouldn't have minded him getting thrown out of this one, partly to send a message to the officials, but maybe also light a fire against a team that needs a little jolt right now.
Next Up
The Pacers are now win or stay home mode going into Wednesday. I would hope that they come out with some pride and play their best game of the playoffs because that is likely what they will need to win the game. The problem here is that this isn't coming against a flawed Atlanta team, where the Pacers won two straight to reach the second round. The Heat have shown the ability to withstand significant runs and momentum to stay in games and there's no reason to think they won't play that way again, even though they have the security of going home to play a Game 6 if necessary. Right now, that's all the Pacers can hope for.

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