Pacers Must Stop Heat’s Paint Parade

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MIAMI – It’s another game day on Biscayne Bay, so it’s well past time to put the Vogel/Hibbert thing behind us. It’s done with, the Pacers proved that they can hang with the Heat, and they have another chance to steal home-court advantage in Game 2 on Friday (8:30 p.m. ET, TNT).

Besides, more concerning than the two layups that LeBron James got with Roy Hibbert off the floor in the final 11 seconds of overtime were the other 56 points in the paint the Heat scored in Game 1, 2 of which came with Hibbert on the floor.

The 60 points in the paint were almost twice as many as the Heat averaged (30.7) in three regular season games against the Pacers and, appropriately, were the focus of the Pacers’ film session on Thursday. The Heat shot 11-for-42 from outside the paint on Wednesday and committed 21 turnovers, but still had a solid offensive game (103 points on 97 possessions), because they were able to get to the basket so often against a defense that has typically protected it better than any other team in the league.

“We got to keep them off the glass,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said Thursday. “We got to keep them out of transition more than we did. And we got to clean up our coverages in the half court, so we don’t allow so many straight-line drives at the rim like we did [in Game 1]. And I think we can do that.”

Though there was that example of James getting an and-one when the Pacers failed to get back after a dead-ball turnover, the Heat registered only 11 fast break points on Tuesday, a not-so unacceptable amount given the Pacers’ nine live-ball turnovers. And Miami’s 16 offensive boards (and 24 second-chance points) were mostly a product of those “straight-line drives at the rim” forcing the Pacers’ bigs to help and rotate. So if the Pacers can curtail those, they’ll be in decent shape in Game 2.

The problem is that the Heat have James, the trump card to any adjustments a team might make. Still, there are some adjustments to be made, because the Heat ran their offense a lot differently in Game 1 than the New York Knicks did in the conference semifinals.

Though many of their possessions eventually turned into isolations, the Knicks did run a lot of pick-and-rolls. But they mostly ran them at Roy Hibbert, without much variation. With Hibbert’s man acting as the screener, he was able to pose a threat to the man with the ball, while also staying within reach of his man rolling to the basket (who was still in front of him).

The Heat didn’t run many pick-and-rolls at Hibbert, instead using a guard or David West‘s man as the screener and leaving Hibbert’s man on the baseline, forcing Hibbert to make a decision between the guy attacking the basket or his man behind him.

“They had a more intelligent plan against Roy Hibbert than New York did,” Vogel said. “It was effective last night and we got to adjust to it.”

Of course, the Heat’s plan wouldn’t have been a huge issue for the Pacers if West was able to contain the ball-handler better than he did.

Here’s an example where Chris Bosh sets a high screen for James, who is able to get around West.

james-bosh_p&r_1

At this point, both West and Sam Young (James’ defender) are trailing the play. James goes straight at Hibbert, gets the big man to leave the floor, and dumps the ball off the Chris Birdman, who throws down two of his 16 points.

There were countless examples in Game 1 of West getting burned on pick-and-rolls. In fact, on the very next play, James goes right by West with his left hand. He misses a scoop shot that Hibbert contests, but Andersen is right there to tip in the miss.

Another wrinkle that the Heat used was running a lot of pick-and-rolls toward the baseline, instead of toward the middle, something the Knicks had a little success with in the last round, but probably didn’t try often enough.

The Heat ran it quite a bit in the fourth quarter and overtime, mostly with Norris Cole as the ball-handler and Shane Battier (being defended by West) as the screener.

Here, West doesn’t get totally burned, but Cole uses a little in-and-out dribble move to get to the basket and draw Hibbert’s help.

baseline

Cole could hit Bosh, who is wide open in the corner here, but the advantage of the ball being on the baseline is that the defense is turned inside-out and defenders have to turn their heads away from their man. That’s exactly what Lance Stephenson does, and Dwyane Wade takes advantage by cutting to the basket. Cole dishes to Wade, who hits a short floater over West.

When West overplayed that toward-the-baseline pick-and-roll, Norris Cole went the other way, drew Ian Mahinmi‘s attention, and got Birdman another dunk …


West carried the Pacers’ offense in the first half on Wednesday and finished with 26 points. But he was largely responsible for many of the Heat’s points on the other end of the floor. And if Indiana is going to keep Miami out of the paint in Game 2, it has to start with his containment on pick-and-rolls.

5 Comments

  1. charles says:

    One thing game one proved: Paul George is an absurdly talented player. To compete the way he did and perform the way he did during the biggest stage playing an exceptional team speaks volumes about him and, hopefully, it transfers to more confidence and continued good games in this series. I knew he was good. but i just didn’t know he was THIS good.

  2. Kamote says:

    The truth is, LBJ really has mad skills (add flopping to that LOL). The Heat plays an offense that’s mostly “positionless”, meaning they don’t follow the conventional PG to C line-up. Remember, there was a time when a stretch-4, meaning a PF that shoot 3′s, was introduced, and that threw-off most coaches. Then there was small-ball, where there would be 3 Guards and just utilize the quickness and shooting of the team. What the Heat has right now is also something new to opposing teams.

    First, they have the stretch-5, where Bosh can knock down long shots (even 3′s), but also scores inside. Then you have LBJ and Wade, two versatile players that can play multiple positions (LBJ at PG to PF, and Wade at PG to SF). These two have the quickness of guards, but have the strength of forwards. And then you bring along a slew of shooters (Battier, Allen, Chalmers) and finish it off with bruisers (Birdman, Haslem). First, if you use LBJ, Wade, Bosh, Chalmers/Cole, Battier… then you have a line-up that everyone can shoot 3′s, where 3 players can still operate inside. Then if you use LBJ, Bosh, Wade, Allen, Birdman/Haslem… then they’re practically playing small-ball but the guards are still big (LBJ, Wade, Allen). These line-ups are really giving headaches to teams because its unconventional, but really effective.

    Now the problem lies on the coaches of the other teams, because they tend to adjust their line-up just to defend the Heat’s offense. But if they choose to fight the Heat’s game, then they’d be in a lot of trouble because their team’s aren’t made for that strategy. They’re concerned too much on the Heat’s offense, that they adjust their defense, but that line-up is now easier for the Heat to exploit.

    The key I think (for Pacers, Griz/Spurs) is sticking to fundamentals and the identity of your team. They have to make the Heat pay by playing unconventional bball. I understand how the game has evolved through the years, but unless your team isn’t built for that, then stick to what you do best. I guess that’s the reason why Boston always give a good fight against them (just imagine if Pierce, KG and Allen we’re just 5 years younger), because they stuck to what they are best at.

    The three teams left (Pacers, Spurs/Grizz) has big the big men to utilize against the Heat. Coaches should focus more on “make the Heat defend us” rather than “how do we defend the Heat?”. Stick to where you’re team is best at, then you may have a shot at dethroning the champs.

    But of course, there’s always the Heat’s 6th man, right Stern? LOL

  3. Student of the game says:

    Great article, really teaches you a lot about basketball plays on breaking down a team’s defense. I love playing basketball, and I also love learning the game

  4. onajide says:

    Why are all these conversations from writers, even before this series started, talking about what the opposing team needs to do to beat the Heat? We need a more equitable and balanced approach to how each team could beat the other. Otherwise, you’re showing bias, no matter if you do or do not have a favorite team. Speak to that Mr. Schuhmann. Thank you.