By John Schuhmann, NBA.com
INDIANAPOLIS – The Eastern Conference finals series between the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat is a fascinating matchup, through and through.
At its core, it’s size vs. spacing. And that contrast came to a head in Game 1 when David West was chasing Ray Allen for most of the fourth quarter.
The Heat were playing small, looking to space the floor with a lineup of Mario Chalmers, Allen, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh. The Pacers were staying true to their big-and-bruising identity, playing West and Roy Hibbert up front. And because they wanted to keep Paul George on James, West had to defend a guard.
The results were OK. According to SportVU, West defended Allen for 2:19 in Game 1. It was a couple of possessions in the second period and much of the fourth, but the 2:19 is just time that the Heat had the ball in the frontcourt.
Allen touched the ball just five times in that 2:19. And he shot 2-for-4 (1-for-3 from 3-point range). The matchup didn’t swing the game either way, because the Pacers had an 11-point lead when West checked in in the fourth period, and the Heat never got any closer than that.
Some notes on a few of the possessions in which West and Allen matched up …
- The 3-pointer Allen made was on a third-quarter possession in which West was originally guarding Shane Battier. When Allen and Battier both went to set screens for James in transition, West got switched onto Allen and got caught ball-watching.
- You don’t often see Allen roll to the hoop after setting a screen, but that was how he got his other basket against West’s defense.
- The Heat did run Allen around with flares and curls, and he got a couple of good looks, but they didn’t go down.
- The one time Allen tried to take West off the dribble, West stopped him in his tracks, though West was then unable to contain Wade after Allen set a screen.
We’re not going to see large doses of this matchup. West is a starter for Indiana, Allen comes off the bench for Miami, and the right players have to be on the floor for the situation to call for it.
“He can’t do it for 48 minutes,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said of West chasing around one of the best shooters in NBA history. “But we’ll change matchups. We’ll just put him on whomever we need to put him on. He’s prepared to guard any of their small guys. A lot of times, we’ll let him decide who he wants to guard.”
But Vogel certainly isn’t afraid of the situation. He’d rather go big vs. small than compromise his team’s identity.
Asked what he liked about the matchup, Vogel said, “We kept our rotation intact and we stayed who we are, which, I think, strengthens us.”
Allen thought the Heat could have done more with the matchup in Game 1, but he knows things might be different in a high-leverage situation. Because Allen plays more minutes in the fourth quarter than in any other period, that’s when we’re most likely to see him being defended by West.
And Allen would like to see if West can keep up with him with the game on the line.
“We have yet to really take advantage of it,” he said after practice Monday. “We were down double-digit points by the time he did start chasing me. It’ll be interesting in a tight situation, if it’s a one or two-point game, if they try that.”