Film Study: Pacers’ ‘Smash-Mouth’ Offense Thriving Against Heat


HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — The most amazing thing about the Eastern Conference finals thus far is how efficient the two offenses have been.

Based on *an estimate of possessions, the league’s No. 1 defense (Indiana) has allowed 110.9 points per 100 possessions and the league’s No. 19 offense (Indiana again) has scored 111.3. It’s a small sample size, but both of those numbers would have led the league in the regular season.

*Possessions = FGA + (0.44*FTA) + TO – OREB

And my own (unofficial) possession counts have both teams scoring a little bit more efficiently than the estimates.

Game 1 103 98 105.1 102 97 105.2
Game 2 93 87 106.9 97 86 112.8
Game 3 114 86 132.6 96 86 111.6
Game 4 92 83 110.8 99 82 120.7
Total 402 354 113.6 394 351 112.3

The Heat shot just 39 percent in Game 4 on Tuesday, including 14-for-48 from outside the paint. But they were 24-for-27 from the line and committed just six turnovers. They scored on just one of their final nine possessions, but had scored seven straight times before that and still scored more than a point per possession (22/21) in the fourth quarter.

Although the Pacers showed LeBron James more bodies on his post touches and the MVP seemed a little more passive (11 of his 18 shots came from outside the paint and he attempted just six free throws) in Game 4, defense was Miami’s bigger problem … and has been throughout the series.

The Pacers aren’t a good shooting team and they’re turnover-prone. But they score with second-chance opportunities and trips to the free throw line, “smash-mouth basketball” as Frank Vogel calls it.

Indiana has smash-mouthed Miami in this series. In fact, the Pacers have more than twice as many offensive rebounds (61) and more than twice as many free throw attempts (141) in four conference finals games than the Spurs did (28, 66).

Game 4 was a little unique in that the Pacers outscored the Heat, 50-32, in the paint. Roy Hibbert scored 20 of those 50 points, as much a force on offense as he has been on defense throughout the season.

The Heat have been doing a good job of fronting the post, making it difficult for the Pacers to throw direct entry passes to Hibbert or David West. But Indiana has been able to get them the ball using other action to set up entry passes.

Here, in the first quarter of Game 4, George Hill runs a pick-and-roll with Hibbert. This allows Hibbert to establish deep post position against Chris Andersen, who had jumped out to help on the screen. Two passes later, Hibbert scores on a short jump hook …


On this play, Hibbert is stationed on the weak side as Hill and West run a pick-and-roll. This draws just enough of Chris Bosh‘s attention to allow Hibbert to seal his man as the ball is swung. Hibbert misses the jump hook, but Bosh fails to box out, and Hibbert gets one of the biggest baskets of the game …


The Pacers have, at times, been able to get Hibbert the ball on a direct entry pass. And here, it’s clear that this is a bad matchup for Andersen …

In addition to denying the post, the Heat’s aggressive defense has kept the Pacers’ pick-and-roll ball handlers contained when they try to use a high screen (not that the Pacers’ ball handlers were particularly adept at attacking on pick-and-rolls in the first place). But Indiana’s guards and wings have been able to get to the rim in isolation situations (see Paul George’s Game 2 throwdown) and by going away from the screen.

Hill got to the line for 10 of Indiana’s 33 free throw attempts in Game 4. Here goes away from the screen, gets past Ray Allen, and draws a foul on Joel Anthony


Those kinds of attacks have allowed the Pacers to salvage some otherwise brutal offensive possessions. Thanks in part to the Heat’s pressure, there have often been 10 seconds or less on the shot clock when the Pacers run their first meaningful action. But as long as they get the ball on the rim, they give themselves a chance to grab an offensive board.

Here, Lance Stephenson makes something out of nothing by attacking Allen off the dribble, drawing a block attempt from Andersen, thus freeing Hibbert for a tip-in. (Really, Hill, Stephenson and George should attack Allen’s one-on-one defense at every opportunity.)


Hibbert is averaging 6.5 offensive boards in the series. And only one Heat player (James) is averaging as many total rebounds over the four games.

This is who the Pacers are. They’re bigger than the Heat, they’ve stayed true to their smash-mouth identity and they’ve been able to open things up inside by keeping Miami’s defense on the move.


  1. Sammy says:

    Well I’m for the Spurs weather their old or young …,:-P because in my opinion I think they can still play “BALL” with these youngsters:-D “GO SPURS GO”

  2. […] a series that has been a contrast in styles, the Pacers didn’t play theirs in Game 5. “Smash-mouth” basketball didn’t make the trip to Miami, as Indiana was limited to just 32 points in the […]

  3. sanjay says:

    @w/e punk who got their butt hurt? yours? oh yes I see that. Heat is 3-2 and have chance to close!
    so much for your pathetic basketball knowledge. Get the eff out of my face punk!

  4. Wade Smock says:

    True dat. Nothing to disagree with you on this one. Your starting to see the real Pacers. Shame the rest of the teams in the league arn’t built this way. The fans really get behind a team like this one is. Small market teams have only so many chances, so when they do overcome the odds, gain that so needed respect from the nation as a whole. It’s so damn rewarding. For all of us watching, more so for the other small market team fans. Next year it may be your turn.

  5. kobeballhog says:

    blue collar gold swagger whatever, once George contract granger and hibberts are up they will surely go for big bucks let’s see you pacers keep them in the team lol,

    • Cait says:

      Hibbert makes max now and is signed for 5 years. I am sure they will extend george now! What are u talking about. Indy deserves this team after malice in the palace. Go indy

  6. kobeballhog says:

    Indiana gets more calls than Miami and all these haters saying that Miami gets help from officials lol, talk about ignorance of the game by haters.

    • Cait says:

      Dwyane was not suspended. Battier flops on almost every play. In game 3, lebron had 1 foul in first 41 min. George and Stephenson were both in foul trouble. Missed shot clock violation. Please

  7. Miami Heat Fan says:

    At least Pacer Fans has still a chance to watch their team got burn by the Heat @Bankers life fieldhouse. Heat in 6

  8. reynol pers says:

    Joel Anthony please he is athletic and is a good defensive player.

  9. david says:

    you guys just dont realizee….the heat are at there worst the pacers are at there best…..thats all miami got to do is figure roy hibbert out

    • nbapacersfan says:

      Good luck with that. 😉


    • Cait says:

      No one player for the Pacers has to play well. No one needs a game for the ages that is why they are a team instead of individuals. Praying for God’s will tonight

  10. SM says:

    LBJ is good in 99% of the time.
    Bos and Wade have to step up and attach the rim.
    Chalmers has been [playing good
    Haslem must play better.
    Allen Batier, cole must step up.
    Birdman has been good.

  11. Let’s see that tomorrow guys…The ball don’t lie. but the REF lie..

  12. Art says:

    Most people who prefer to enjoy the game choose Spurs vs Pacers because Pacers just play better.
    Most people and media who prefer scandals and hundreds questionable and unfair calls choose Spurs vs Heat.
    Didn’t everybody notice that it was no big problem with officiating in any series when Miami didn’t play?

  13. J says:

    intresting article!
    Heat in 6!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  14. sanjay says:

    @w/e you need your head checked. MJ era is different than Lebron Era. There is no way lebron will win the game all by himself! it is a team game for a reason. The best he can do is to get to 40, which we might see in next coming games!
    The indiana pacers have capitalized on heat weakness in the paint! And it has worsened heat woes as they shooting has been average. With all that said the series should have been 3-1 by now!
    Heat have to play better than what have done so far to win this series period.

  15. Twine says:

    am a chicago fan, so am pretty neutral towards this series; but i must say majority and i repeat the majority that’s written is how bad miami play or how much better the Pacers are, the series is tied therefore criticsm and praise should be equal towards both teams honestly, not mostly towards one team, people love to see the bad in miami and would love to see hem fail, that’s not fair….Lebron is too great to be kicked out at this point, when the going gets tough superstars emerge, he showed that last yr with Celtics and the Pacers; he’ll do it again and take over Game 5; he did it last yr with game 6 and 7 against the celtics and game 5 against Pacers; so i would put my money on Miami (unless Lebron gets injured somehow in game 5 then they are doomed)

  16. Kijempe Jr. says:

    pacers fanbois are so hypocritical. watch game 4 again and you can easily pin the real floppers in yellow&blue outfits.

    • Pacers Fan says:

      LeBron said he thinks flopping is a good strategy. The Heat around 15 unnecessary groundings every game.

  17. W/E says:

    Man the Miami are a disappointment, the Pacers are giving them a hard time, a team with basically NO STARS OMG, Roy Humbert and his buddies are doing pretty good against the smaller guys of MIami, as for the heat – Battier Allen and the rest of the crew they just disappear, and why James aint scoring 50, the guy is a good scorer and the best player in the league, he should try and be more agressive, his teammates cant score so he should shift to the next gear and try to finish games in 4rth quarters. He is supposed to be the succesor of MJ, i dont see that, the guy messes up in every game against Indiana and chokes with various ways in 4rth quarters.

  18. theholyspectator says:

    here comes another adversity for miami heat…i think pressure is seriously on for miami right now…if they lose game 5 its pretty much a done deal for them, which the whole world would be shocked! gotta give it to indy tho, they responded…wasnt a blowout, the game was still close..which goes to show you thats how good miami is even on the loss nights..but with all that said…we about to see king james from game 6 of last years ECF against boston for game 5. neither team have yet to win back to back in this series…so miami will most likely pull away with the win…but can they close out in game 6 back in indy?..this really is comin down to a game 7…just like last year…crazy series..

    • Cooper says:

      It is not a shock for fans of the Pacers that have been watching all 81 games they played this year. The only people who are shocked are those that were deprived seeing them play at all by ESPN, ABC, and TNT.

  19. JimD54 says:

    The winner of this series will be determined by if the refs call Lebron’s fouls like they did in game 4, or if they ignore them like they did in game 3, that’s the key, If the refs let LeBron play linebacker basketball like they usually do and not call fouls on him, Miami will win just like they did against OKC last year. If the refs put a stop to all LeBrons charging and flopping Miami will be fishing next week…

    • Cooper says:

      I agree. It mostly depends on whether the NBA is going to allow the Pacers into the Finals. I never wanted to buy into referees swaying games, but after the league refused to suspend Dwyane Wade and those three technical were called in Miami – it made me realize the league does not want the Pacers to advance due to ratings. The Pacers will have to play 5 on 8 tonight because I am sure the league will feel they need to make up for all those terrible calls LeBron had to endure in Game 4. He fouls just like every other player in the NBA. The bigger travesty was that he was only whistled for one foul in 41 mins in Game 3.

  20. shhh says:

    i don’t like the heat, but i’d rather see heat against spurs in the finals.

    i hope the spurs win all the way, that will be a great finish for timmy’s legacy.

  21. littleteapot says:

    I’m amazed Spo doesn’t use Haslem more in this series. I think he could help the Heat on all of the points in this article, and the one game they had him over 20 minutes asked him for big contributions was also the one blowout. He’s the one tough, mean guy on the Heat besides Birdman who can box Hibbert out and keep him away from the paint, and he’s the only Heat player who’s a smart enough rim protector to be able to help off Hibbert without giving him something easy.

  22. Al says:

    I’m not gonna talk bad about any team. But u Miami fans need to count ur lucky stars this isn’t 3-1 in favor of Indiana. They should have won game 1 if not by a dumb move by the coach.

  23. Erlo says:

    Pacers will not win another game. I am shocked they even put up 100 points in any of these games to be honest. The Heat have just been playing terrible, and at their worst it seems they are on par just about with the Pacers. I really don’t think the Heat will take these next two games lightly, and will come out and burn them by 20 each game.

    • StupidHeatFans says:

      The heat havnt been at their best because of indianas defense

      • Cooper says:

        Don’t you know that no one can legitimately beat Miami. It has be to be because of officiating, non basketball plays, or the Heat not playing to their identity. Just like in 2011, the Mavericks did not beat Miami, Miami lost. It is old and tired, the Pacers are a great basketball defense with the league’s best defense and highest rebounding rate. Time for them to get the respect they deserve!

    • durrr says:

      Really? The Heat have been playing terribly? Taking the conference finals lightly? They’ve been putting up over 100 a game on the best defense in the NBA. That’s an accomplishment. I’m not saying the Heat won’t win, they probably will in 7, but you’re off your rocker to think they’ll win any game against this Pacers team by 20 points.

      • HeatfansinceWade says:

        They Just won game 3 by 18 points Dummy! Did you watch the game?

      • Cait says:

        So because Lebron is great we should have to watch him in the finals every year until he retires. I would much rather watch great teams than great individuals. Built not bought!

    • Cooper says:

      The above fan is probably shocked the Pacers put up 100 points because they never watched them play all season. ESPN, ABC, and TNT apparently did not think they were worth watching. I look forward to the Pacers continuing to prove everyone wrong!

  24. Latasha says:

    Smash-Mouth Miami all the way .
    Go Indiana.

    A finals without Miami. So many Basketball fans are looking forward to that.

    • voiceofalabama says:

      maybe just you..they bring the excitement to the game. Pacers/Spurs = more sleep for basketball fans + low ratings

      • Basketball Jones says:

        The ratings for the Indy-New York series were higher in Indy than New York. I think the Pacers are slowly becoming America’s team. I would much rather watch the Spurs and the Pacers in the Finals. Two of my favorite teams: teamwork, togetherness, and excellent work by respective front offices. Go Pacers!

    • shhh says:

      you’re probably wrong.

      i don’t like the heat, but i’d rather see heat against spurs in the finals.

      i hope the spurs win all the way, that will be a great finish for timmy’s legacy.

      • Basketball Jones says:

        If the Pacers do not win, I will be convinced it was just because the NBA did not want to risk not having the Miami Heat in the Finals again. I guarantee that Danny Crawford and Marc Davis will be officiating the game in Miami tonight to avenge all of those “terrible” calls against the untouchable Heat in Game 4. Blue Collar Gold Swagger!

  25. hipster says:

    I hope the Heat and their crybaby fans and flopping players lose. The Pacers are my kind of team- gritty, hardworking, tough. Just the opposite of the flashy, pretty boy, no-substance Heat who’s “Big 3” conspired for 2 years to create a team of SuperFriends so that winning would be easy. That’s a coward’s way out if you ask me.

    • voiceofalabama says:

      u mad bro! I think i saw both Lance Stephenson and David West flopping away last night. But, you can hope and dream, the Heat will win. Most likely in 6. Sorry.

      • I Love this Game says:

        The difference is.. LeBron James directly stated he thinks flopping is a good strategy. “Any thing you can do to get an advantage over the other team, so be it.” This is more or less condoning cheating. Not likeable.

    • Game Time says:

      You want to talk about flopping, but fail to note the flopping going on last night by David West, Lance, and George. Both teams have been doing a bit of flopping. I swear Pacer fans are pretentious with their “oh we work so hard, and teams like Miami don’t” talk. Miami has worked as hard as any other team to play at this level of competition. They however have more talent on their team which gives them an edge in most games, and because of that I think people are irked/jealous. Don’t be a hypocrite because if it was your team that two major stars wanted to play for you would have no argument against it.

      • Basketball Jones says:

        It has nothing to do with jealously. It has to do with the things they say and the way they act. LeBron and Wade said more or less that flopping was an admirable strategy. They claimed they would win 8 championships before they ever played a game. Wade has committed a whole list of dirty plays since the trio came together in South Beach. And more than anything, it is tough for small markets to watch a team that had to do absolutely nothing to win a championship. The Pacers had to spend years in the lottery and make excellent draft decisions to get where they are, whereas the Heat front office did nothing as 3 buddies sat and discussed creating a super team in Beijing.

  26. Series says:

    Ray Allen and Battier have been disapointing against Indiana, Allen seemed especially hesitant and was involved way too much on offence. Wade James and Bosh should be combining more, like they were last year. Thank God Chalmers is really developing as a player. Miami need to get an early lead against Indiana, because when that happened in game three it bought out Indiana’s nervousness and Miami thrashed them. Whoever wins game five will probably win the series.

    • I Love this Game says:

      I do not think the Pacers were nervous. Rather, I think their defensive rotations were just slow all night. It is hard to beat a team when they shoot over 63% from the field. Let’s Go Pacers. Naptown all the way!

      • Cooper says:

        Let’s Go Pacers!

      • Gold Swagger says:

        Half of the Heat’s 6 losses over the past four months have come to the Pacers. Counting the regular season and playoffs games the Pacers have won 4-3. Go Naptown!

      • Gold Swagger says:

        Well I predicted it yesterday Pacers fans. We will be in for a long one tonight. Danny Crawford and Marc Davis are the officiating crew: Two number one Heat fans. They got a ring at the ceremony.

      • May says:

        Love watching these Pacers!

    • Jonesing says:

      I am still just shocked that LeBron actually admitted that flopping is a good strategy. Really? “Anything you can do to get an advantage over the opponent, so be it.” This must be Dwyane’s thought process when he dislocates elbows, kicks people in the groin, and elbows people in the head. He is more or less saying that he routinely deceives officials. Well, hopefully they do not fall for it tonight in Miami. Go Indiana!

    • Pacers Fan says:

      Go Pacers! Get Game 5!

    • Gold Swagger says:

      Really hoping Pacers get game 5. That being said, the Cs took a 3-2 series lead last year and still lost the series – so even if Miami wins it does not guarantee anything. Let’s go Indy!

    • Gold Swagger says:

      Why does everyone on TV keep talking about if the Spurs match-up with Heat? So disrespectful.

    • NBA Fan says:

      Should be a good game tonight. Tough to predict. Rooting for indy