Posts Tagged ‘Shane Battier’

Numbers preview: The Finals

VIDEO: GameTime: Finals Preview

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Considering how dramatic last year’s Finals was, now’s the perfect time for the first rematch in 16 years. The last time two teams faced each other in The Finals in back-to-back years was the Chicago Bulls and Utah Jazz in 1997 and 1998.

We’re also returning to the 2-2-1-1-1 format for the first time since 1984. In the 29 years of the 2-3-2 format, the lower seed won all three games at home only three times (though the Heat did it in 2006 and 2012).

In these playoffs, the Spurs (9-1) and Heat (8-0) are a combined 17-1 at home, each scoring more than 116 points per 100 possessions. That’s ridiculously good offense, and we’re sure to see some more of it over the next 4-7 games.

These were two of the top six offensive teams in the regular season and have been the two best offensive teams in the playoffs. Comparing their offensive efficiency in each round with their opponents’ regular-season defensive numbers, both the Spurs and Heat have improved offensively during the playoffs.

The Heat (11th) are the first team since the 2006 Mavericks (11th) to make The Finals after not ranking in the top 10 in defensive efficiency in the regular season. And they’re aiming to be the first team since the 2001 Lakers (19th) to win the title after not ranking in the top 10.

The Spurs ranked in the top four defensively for the second straight season after sliding out of the top 10 the previous two. That they played more consistently on that end of the floor over the last seven months could give them the edge, as the team that can most consistently slow down the other over the next two weeks will win the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

But postseason series are often about matchups, and the Heat have the ultimate trump card in LeBron James. If it seems like this series could be decided by a possession or two, you only have to look back at last year’s to confirm that it certainly could.

Here are some statistical nuggets regarding these two teams’ paths to The Finals, their two regular season meetings, and last year’s scintillating series.

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions
Stats and rankings are for the playoffs.

San Antonio Spurs (62-20)

First round: Beat Dallas in 7 games.
West semifinals: Beat Portland in 5 games.
West finals: Beat Oklahoma City in 6 games.
Pace: 96.2 (4)
OffRtg: 111.2 (2)
DefRtg: 101.0 (2)
NetRtg: +10.1 (1)

Regular season: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups
vs. Miami: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups
Playoffs: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups

Spurs by round

Round Opp. OffRtg Rank AdjO DefRtg Rank AdjD
First round DAL 110.2 3 +4.3 106.8 9 -2.2
Conf. semis POR 112.3 2 +7.5 93.9 1 -14.3
Conf. finals OKC 111.4 2 +10.4 100.7 1 -7.4

AdjO = OffRtg – opponent’s regular-season DefRtg
AdjD = DefRtg – opponent’s regular-season OffRtg

Playoff notes:

  1. Opponents have attempted just 25 free throws per 100 shots, the lowest opponent FTA rate of the playoffs. But their opponent free-throw rate has increased in each round, from 0.217 against Dallas to 0.233 against Portland and 0.303 against Oklahoma City.
  2. Their defensive rebounding percentage has improved each round.
  3. Their rate of 9.7 turnovers per 100 possessions in the conference semifinals against Portland has been the lowest turnover rate for any team in any series so far.
  4. According to SportVU, they lead the postseason with an effective field-goal percentage of 59.5 percent on catch-and-shoot opportunities.
  5. They’ve scored 124.0 points per 100 possessions in the second quarter, more than any other playoff team has scored in any quarter.
  6. The Spurs have outscored their opponents by 15.2 points per 100 possessions with Danny Green on the floor. That’s the best on-court NetRtg of any player that has logged at least 20 minutes per game in five or more playoff games.
  7. Kawhi Leonard has the best raw plus-minus of the playoffs at plus-111.
  8. Marco Belinelli is the only Spurs rotation player with a negative plus-minus. They’ve been outscored by 42 points in his 296 minutes on the floor and are a plus-186 in his 572 minutes on the bench. In the regular season, Belinelli had a better on-court NetRtg (plus-7.3) than Tim Duncan (plus-6.6) or Tony Parker (plus-6.7).
  9. Green has an effective field-goal percentage of 63.4 percent in the playoffs, a jump of 7.2 percent from his regular season mark (56.2). That’s the biggest EFG% jump of any player who has attempted at least 75 shots in the postseason.
  10. Duncan had 14 more rebounds than any other player in the conference finals.
  11. Manu Ginobili shot 15-for-30 (50 percent) from 3-point range in the conference finals after shooting 2-for-14 (14 percent) in the conference semifinals.
  12. The usage rates of Ginobili (28.9 percent, 25.9 percent, 23.8 percent) and Parker (31.8 percent, 30.4 percent, 25.0 percent) have decreased in each round. The usage rates of Duncan (19.9 percent, 20.2 percent, 25.4 percent), Boris Diaw (14.4 percent, 16.2 percent, 21.4 percent) and Green (11.7 percent, 17.1 percent, 17.8 percent) have increased in each round.
  13. Parker leads the postseason with 195 drives and 10.8 drives per game.
  14. The Spurs have outscored their opponents by 27.1 points per 100 possessions in 114 minutes with Ginobili, Leonard and Tiago Splitter on the floor together, the best three-man NetRtg among 194 trios that have logged at least 100 minutes.
  15. Patty Mills has traveled at the fastest average speed in the playoffs, 4.9 miles per hour.


Andersen injury has allowed Heat to find a new lineup that works

VIDEO: Pacers-Heat Game 6 Preview

MIAMI – Has another injury forced the Miami Heat into another lineup change that will help them win a championship?

It was two years ago when Chris Bosh suffered an abdominal injury in Game 1 of the conference semifinals against Indiana. His absence forced Shane Battier into the starting lineup and unlocked the Heat’s floor spacing around LeBron James, turning them into an offensive juggernaut and two-time champions.

Rashard Lewis (Ron Hoskins/NBAE)

Rashard Lewis (Ron Hoskins/NBAE)

In Game 3 of this year’s Eastern Conference finals, Chris Andersen suffered a bruised left thigh. Andersen wasn’t starting, but his absence forced another lineup shuffle by Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. Because the Heat needed a back-up center, Udonis Haslem went from starter to reserve, and Rashard Lewis — who hadn’t played in the first two games — was inserted into the starting lineup for Game 4.

Andersen could be back for Game 6 on Friday (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) — he’s a game-time decision — but it seems unlikely that Spoelstra would remove Lewis from the starting lineup either way.

Lewis is a series-high plus-35 in the conference finals. Though he shot 0-for-7 in Games 3 and 4, the Miami offense has been at its best with Lewis on the floor. His work (and “work” is the right word here) against David West has allowed the Heat to remain strong defensively without playing big.

With the best player in the world, Miami has a lot of combinations that work. But the one with Haslem wasn’t working that well. Haslem is a series-low minus-43. He has hurt Miami’s spacing offensively and hasn’t been able to make up for it with defense and rebounding. Even in the Charlotte series, which the Heat swept, he was a minus-17.

Going into the conference finals, the Heat just didn’t have many alternatives at the second forward spot. Battier’s minutes are limited as he approaches retirement. And Michael Beasley never earned a postseason role. Neither can really handle West defensively.

Lewis can. He’s listed as 15 pounds lighter than West, but he held his own against bigger power forwards when he played for the Orlando Magic. And now that he’s rediscovered his shot (he hit six of his nine threes in Game 5 on Wednesday), he can provide even more spacing for James offensively.

So with 25-30 minutes of Lewis, a dash of Battier and a fourth quarter that features their three-guard lineup, the Heat don’t have to play big, save for a few Bosh-Andersen minutes, in which they still have solid floor spacing. That floor spacing  has made Indiana’s No. 1 defense struggle to get stops.

“They spread you out,” West said Thursday. “We’re not matching up in transition as well as we should. They’re getting us cross-matched. We just got to get a man to a body in transition.”

If they can do that, there’s still the question of what they should try to take away.

“We expect LeBron to have a huge night and be able to play his game,” Paul George said. “But we can’t let Rashard Lewis go for 18 from the 3-point line. That’s an area that we feel like we can cut out, the whole team in general. We do a great job of being able to guard the paint as well as the 3-point line.”

West, the guy who’s responsible for defending Lewis, says it’s a balance.

“We’re not going to overreact,” West said. “A lot of it is the system stuff that we’re doing, just having some breakdowns, maybe putting too many guys in front of LeBron. But we got to take our chances. We have to load to LeBron, load to Wade, and force those other guys to make plays and beat us.”

Lewis hadn’t hit six threes since the 2009 Finals. He probably isn’t going to hit six again. But whether he’s making shots or not, his presence on the floor is working for the Heat.

Thirteen different players have started playoff games for the Heat over the last four years. Spoelstra isn’t afraid to make changes when needed. Don’t be surprised if Lewis, who played just 47 minutes in last year’s postseason, is starting in The Finals.

24 — Second thoughts — May 24

By Sekou Smith,

VIDEO: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen helped the Heat carve up the Pacers in Game 3

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The first man in the building helps the Miami Heat erase an early 15-point deficit and break the spirit of the Indiana Pacers in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals.

Ray Allen hits the floor early for Game 3 of the #ECF, 8:30pm/et on @espn. #nbaplayoffs

A photo posted by NBA (@nba) on


They call him Jesus … SHUTTLESWORTH! Four, count ‘em 4, fourth quarter daggers from deep for Ray Allen. They were back-breaking buckets for the Heat as they rebounded from that sluggish start to mash the Pacers.


The Big 3? Not so much. The Heat lead this series 2-1 thanks to the work of their bench mob!


Why Battier’s ‘Teammate’ award matters


Maurice Stokes (right) of the Cincinnati Royals talks over a few things with teammate Jack Twyman while resting in the hospital in 1958.

Maurice Stokes (right) of the Cincinnati Royals talks over a few things with teammate Jack Twyman while resting in the hospital in 1958.

MIAMI – It has sort of a Miss Congeniality vibe to it, the NBA’s Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year Award that was presented to Miami Heat forward Shane Battier on Saturday.

Except for two things:

  1. The men after whom the award is named, Jack Twyman and Maurice Stokes, lend a gravity to the honor that should not be taken lightly.
  2. The voting actually couldn’t be more different. That is, the players who spend the most time around the winner and know him best can’t actually vote for him … unlike those, y’know, pageants.

That’s a quirk of the process, which prohibits NBA players from voting for a current teammate as Teammate of the Year. But it might actually lend credibility to the award, rather than reducing it to a popularity contest.

“The beauty of it is I’m a 13‑year veteran, 35 years old,” Battier said, teasing. “I’ve probably played with 250 of the current players that are in the league. But for guys that don’t know me, who only played against me, to look at me and say, ‘You know what, he looks like he’d be a great teammate,’ that means a lot to me.”

Like the inaugural TMOY winner last year, Chauncey Billups, Battier has been around for a while and played for multiple teams (Memphis, Houston, Miami). That means exposure to a lot of players who aren’t on the Heat roster and therefore can vote for him.

Of the top five finishers in this year’s balloting, only Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki, who finished third, has spent his entire career with one team. Then again, the Mavericks have had a revolving door recently, so some of Nowitzki’s teammates have moved on, their eligibility to vote for him restored.

In the point system used to determine the winner, Battier finished with 1,322 points and 67 first-place votes. Charlotte’s Al Jefferson was second (798 points, 29 firsts), followed by Nowitzki (784, 28), L.A. Clippers guard Chris Paul (754, 40) and L.A. Lakers forward Pau Gasol (753, 36).

As for the first reason the TMOY award means something, Battier wanted everyone to know the tale of Twyman and Stokes, teammates on the Rochester/Cincinnati Royals from 1955 to 1958. Stokes suffered an on-court injury that caused him to lapse into a coma days later, with resulting brain damage that left him permanently paralyzed. Twyman became his legal guardian and supported Stokes – who died at age 36 in 1970 – for the rest of his life.

Twyman, who died in 2012, was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1983, but he spent years lobbying for Stokes, whose remarkable skills were evident before his career was cut short. In 2004, Stokes also was enshrined.

“If you don’t know the story about Maurice Stokes and Jack Twyman, it’s an amazing story of brotherhood and being the ultimate teammate,” Battier said. “The award represents so much. It’s really a huge honor. It means a lot to me because I’ve tried to be a good teammate my entire life.”

Numbers show Heat’s regression on D

By John Schuhmann,

VIDEO: Mini-Movie: East Conference Finals Week 5

MIAMI – The Indiana Pacers were a bottom-10 offensive team in the regular season and downright awful after the All-Star break. The only team that scored fewer points per 100 possessions after the break was the one that lost 26 straight games. And through the first two rounds of the playoffs, Indiana had been held under a point per possession, worse offensively than 10 teams that were eliminated.

Then came Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, when the Pacers’ offense broke out with 107 points in a pretty slow-paced game. They scored just 83 in Game 2, but that was an even slower game, which included a 26-point third quarter.

Things could change as the series comes to Miami for Game 3 on Saturday (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) and Game 4 on Monday, but this has been Indiana’s best offensive series thus far. And maybe that says more about the Miami Heat than the Pacers.

In the first round, the Heat held the Charlotte Bobcats to under their regular season mark of 101.2 points per 100 possessions. But Charlotte was playing with a hobbled Al Jefferson.

In the conference semifinals, the Brooklyn Nets scored 108.2 points per 100 possessions, 3.8 more than their regular season mark. And now the Pacers’ offense has gotten off to a strong start in the conference finals, almost 10 points per 100 possessions better than it was in the regular season.

Both the Nets and Pacers provide challenging matchups, but these were not great offensive teams in the regular season. And the Heat have helped them look pretty good in the playoffs.

The Miami defense just isn’t what it used to be. Shane Battier doesn’t play as much, LeBron James had his worst defensive season since he arrived in Miami, and they all may just be worn down from playing through June each of the last three years.

They can turn it on in a quarter when they absolutely need it, but we’ve yet to really see 48 minutes of great defense from the champs. Things were obviously better in Game 2 than they were in Game 1, but there were still some issues.

The numbers spell out just how much the Miami defense has fallen off.

Heat DefRtg, last four seasons

Season Reg. sea. Rank 1st rd. Rank Conf. semis Rank Conf. finals Rank Finals
2010-11 100.7 5 -7.0 4 -3.3 5 -10.2 1 -0.4
2011-12 97.1 4 -8.4 5 -8.8 1 +1.5 3 -1.6
2012-13 100.5 7 -9.4 4 -5.5 3 +1.5 4 -1.4
2013-14 102.9 11 -1.6 5 +3.8 6 +9.7 3

vs. opponent regular season OffRtg for playoffs.
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions

In each of the last three postseasons, the Heat held their opponent under its regular season efficiency mark in at least three of their four series (all four in 2011). And they never allowed their opponent more than 1.5 points per 100 possessions more than it did in the regular season.

This year, things are different. Though the Heat knocked off the Nets in five games, Brooklyn’s offense scored about 114 points per 100 possessions over the last three games. It was Miami’s worst defensive series of the last four years and the poor D carried over into the conference finals.

It’s still early in this series and the Heat did get the win they needed in Indiana to steal home-court advantage. Throughout the playoffs, they’ve won games with terrific fourth-quarter execution. But there will come a time when a great fourth quarter isn’t enough. And if they don’t win their third straight championship, their defensive regression will likely be the reason why.

Pacers paying no penalty for leaving Bosh open in series

By John Schuhmann,

VIDEO: GameTime: Pacers-Heat Talk Game 3

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – In Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, the Miami Heat started small, with Shane Battier and LeBron James at forward. In Game 2, they started big, replacing Battier with Udonis Haslem.

The Heat won Game 2, but the bigger lineup didn’t really work. They were outscored by 18 points in 17 minutes with Haslem and Chris Bosh on the floor together. Add that to the combination’s Game 1 numbers and Miami is a minus-28 in 25 minutes with Bosh and Haslem both in the game.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that the Heat are better off playing small, because they’ve played well when Bosh has shared the floor with Chris Andersen. That pair is a plus-15 in 22 minutes together.

Still, that’s a minus-13 in 47 minutes with two bigs on the floor vs. a plus-7 in 49 minutes with just one big on the floor.

These small sample sizes, though, could be swung by one stretch of 5-6 minutes where James takes over (as he tends to do sometimes), where the Heat defense takes a rest (as it tends to do) or where the Pacers go ice cold (as they tend to do).

But all you have in a playoff series are small sample sizes. And they don’t get much bigger if you add in regular season meetings when one or both teams could have been playing the second night of a back-to-back. You sometimes have to make decisions and adjustments based on what’s happened in portions of games here and there. And it has to be a combination of what the numbers say and what your eyes are seeing.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra will continue to mix small lineups with big lineups, in part because Battier can’t give Miami what he used to. When this version of the Heat won its first title in 2012, Battier was the guy – as a small-ball four who could shoot and defend – that really unlocked their floor-spacing identity.

He averaged more than 33 minutes per game in that postseason, but has played less than half that in all but three games in these playoffs. And neither Rashard Lewis nor Michael Beasley has been able to take over that role (or has seen the floor in the conference finals thus far).

“We’ve balanced [big and small] as much as we have in the three years this year,” Spoelstra said before Game 2. “And that was what this season required. So we’ve played a lot of different lineups. We have enough experience, different rotations to be able to play different styles of basketball without compromising what we do best.

“That might be what this series requires, but we have great versatility. We have confidence in our versatility. If we have to utilize all of it, whatever’s necessary.”

Not only has Lewis been removed from the rotation in this series, but so has James Jones, whose on-court numbers have been ridiculously good in the playoffs. So it would help if Bosh could make some shots.

Haslem is a decent mid-range shooter, but decent mid-range shooting doesn’t hurt the opposing defense. Andersen is a strong finisher and his well-timed dives to the rim have been successful against the Pacers in the past, but his range doesn’t extend beyond three feet.

It’s Bosh’s shooting that can really take Pacers center Roy Hibbert away from the basket or punish him for staying there. He did the latter on the one 3-pointer he’s hit in this series (which sparked Miami’s Game 2 comeback), but Bosh has missed the other eight threes he’s taken. And according to SportVU, six of the eight misses have been uncontested, including the very first shot of the series.

In six games against Indiana this season, Bosh is 4-for-20 (20 percent) on uncontested threes. Against other teams, he’s shot 37 percent. In the first two rounds of the playoffs, he shot 15-for-33 (45 percent) on uncontested threes. Then he went to Indiana and hit the side of the backboard.

For the most part, Hibbert has remained in the paint against the Heat. And for the most part, Bosh hasn’t been able to do anything about it. It’s become clear that this is not a good matchup for him, but open shots are open shots and they’ll continue to be there if he’s being defended by Hibbert. But whether the Heat are playing big or small, he’s going to have to start making some.

Bench shooters giving Heat a lift

By John Schuhmann,

VIDEO: Through the Lens: Heat vs. Pacers, Game 2

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Shooting is important in the game of basketball. (This is not breaking news, by the way.)

Not only do good shooters put the ball in the basket at a higher rate than bad shooters, but their presence on the floor typically provides spacing for their teammates looking to score in the paint.

To see the importance of shooting, you only need to see the Miami Heat’s numbers with Ray Allen and/or James Jones on the floor in the playoffs.

In 328 minutes with at least one of the two veteran bombers on the floor, the Heat have scored more than 120 points per 100 possessions. That’s 14 percent better than the the league average in the postseason (105.6).

In 200 minutes with neither on the floor, the Heat have scored fewer than 98 points per 100 possessions. That’s less efficient than the Charlotte Bobcats’ offense was as they got swept by the champs in the first round.

Somehow, the Heat defense has also been better with Allen and/or Jones on the floor. So, in those 200 minutes, they’ve been outscored by 50 points, the equivalent of losing a 48-minute game by 12. With at least one of the two on the floor, they’re a plus-16 per 48 minutes.


Both Allen and Jones come off the bench, of course. So yeah, their starting lineups have not been very good. Their starting lineup with Shane Battier at the second forward spot is just a plus-1 in 83 minutes. Their starting lineup with Udonis Haslem in place of Battier is a minus-39 in just 65 minutes.

It should be noted that 64 of Jones’ 107 postseason minutes came against Charlotte and that he’s a plus-0 in his 43 minutes since.

But the importance of shooting is also illustrated in some SportVU numbers from the first two games of the Eastern Conference finals.

In Game 1, the Pacers shot 11-for-19 (58 percent) on uncontested jumpers, according to SportVU. The Heat shot 8-for-27 (30 percent).

In Game 2, the numbers were basically reversed. Indiana shot 10-for-28 (36 percent) on uncontested jumpers, while Miami shot 15-for-27 (56 percent).

It stands to reason that the team that knocks down their shots in Game 3 on Saturday (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) will be the team that takes a 2-1 lead. Again, this is not breaking news.

24–Second thoughts — May 20

By Sekou Smith,

VIDEO: Dwyane Wade has LeBron’s back at crunch time … they’re not done yet, folks


Not yet.

Not Lance Stephenson and the Indiana Pacers, who made it interesting until the very end of Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals against the two-time defending champion Miami Heat.

Born Ready?

Not ready. Not yet.

Not when LeBron James (12 points) and Dwyane Wade (10) own the floor at crunch time in the fourth quarter.

The Heat have never trailed 2-0 in a series since they joined forces. They still haven’t. James and Wade 22 in the fourth quarter, Pacers 20!

Game 3 is Saturday in Miami.

The Heat are taking their talents and that always crucial 1-1 series split back to South Beach!


LeBron and Wade either scored or assisted on every single basket in the fourth quarter for the two-time defending champs. Real Champs wore black!


LeBron with the sick bounce pass to Wade for the reverse baseline jam and essentially the game!


Play big? Heat need to play better

By John Schuhmann,

VIDEO: GameTime: Heat-Pacers Game 2 Preview

INDIANAPOLIS – The Miami Heat got beat up in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals on Sunday. David West and Roy Hibbert combined for 38 points and 17 free-throw attempts. West was able to get most of his shots in the paint instead of having to settle for mid-range attempts.

LeBron James doesn’t like playing the four and was downright awful in defending pick-and-rolls on Sunday. Chris Bosh doesn’t like playing the five and has averaged 9.1 points on 34 percent shooting in his last nine games against the Pacers.

All that might call for a lineup change, or at least more minutes with two Miami big men on the floor together in Game 2 on Tuesday (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN). But the Heat should just try to play better before they admit that they need to make adjustments.

No one was hinting at any lineup changes after shootaround Tuesday morning. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra won’t even disclose his lineup when he meets with the media at 7 p.m. But Pacers coach Frank Vogel said he expects to see more of Udonis Haslem, who hopes to be on the floor more in Game 2.

“We all know Indiana is a physical team,” Haslem said, “so hopefully I get the opportunity to bring a little more physicality to our lineup.”

“We’re all for whatever works,” Bosh added.

Haslem sparked one of the Heat’s best defensive possessions upon entering Game 1 late in the second quarter. And he replaced Shane Battier in the lineup to start the second half, pushing James to small forward.

But the Heat weren’t any better with Haslem on the floor on Sunday. He was a minus-8 in less than 11 minutes. And in about 13 minutes with two bigs on the floor (Bosh and Chris Andersen or Bosh and Haslem), the Heat got outscored 32-22.

So, it’s hard to say that the answer is to play big. The answer is to play better.

“You always have to get back to the basics first,” Spoelstra said Tuesday morning, “and then make your evaluations. It was so tough to evaluate whether we need to do what we do better, do what we do differently, or just do what we do. We didn’t even do what we normally do first. And then we can get to the next layers of it. But we start with that, and then you make adjustments as necessary.”

Defense top job for LeBron in Game 2

By Steve Aschburner,

VIDEO: NBA TV’s crew looks ahead to Game 2 of the East finals

INDIANAPOLIS – LeBron James wasn’t defensive about the way he and his Miami Heat club played in dropping Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals Sunday to the Indiana Pacers.

But it seemed pretty clear from conversations with him in the aftermath that James intends to get defensive about Game 2. Very defensive.

Anyone who expects the Miami star to double his points total and rain 50 on the Pacers Tuesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse could come away awfully disappointed, because points weren’t the problem in the opener. The Heat scored 96, got 54 in the paint, ran to a 21-6 advantage in fast-break scoring and doubled up in the battle of the benches, 26-13. If there’s an offensive priority for the two-time defending champs as the series goes forward, it is getting forward Chris Bosh more involved and productive, and maybe a little more punch from guard Mario Chalmers.

Where the Heat overall, and James in particular, feel pressure to improve is at the other end. Indiana was way too comfortable all afternoon Sunday against the Heat’s muted pick-and-roll defense. And James looked almost out of his element, turning in what frequent observers considered one of this worst defensive performances.

First things first: this has not been the best of James’ 11 NBA seasons as a defender. It might not have been among his Top 5, despite his Erik Spoelstra-given nickname of “1 Through 5,” so dubbed for his ability to guard all five positions. James has lobbied in the past for consideration as NBA Defensive Player of the Year but even some of the Miami loyalists in the media who vote for such awards didn’t make much of a case for him this season. It wasn’t just that the flashy, chase-down-from-behind blocks were in shorter supply – James’ overall defensive impact was lower profile.

Some of that might come from the load he has lugged this season, with Dwyane Wade shifting into part-time status, role players such as Ray Allen and Shane Battier working the back nine of their careers and no fresh blood emerging to help on a consistent basis.

When asked Monday how he was holding up compared to past postseasons, given the increased load, James laughed and said: “Again, right? So that hasn’t changed. About the same. It’s about the same.”

Some of James’ defensive ineffectiveness in Game 1, specifically, came from his assignment guarding Pacers power forward David West. West is a throwback at that position — he’s a low-post bruiser with the ability to step out and hit mid-range (or deeper) shots, rather than a face-the-basket type like LaMarcus Aldridge now or Kevin Garnett, Rasheed Wallace and others who took the power forward position farther from the rim in recent years.

James is built like a power forward — actually, he’s built like a linebacker who could play PF — but the outrageous physical advantage he enjoys over most opponents isn’t there against West. That’s why you saw him “fronting” West, trying to stay between him and the basketball while pinning him against the lane (and possible 3-second calls).

Playing behind West didn’t work out so well – it didn’t even work out well when Lance Stephenson backed James down for one bucket – so James tried to stay high.

“I always do against bigger, stronger guys. There’s not that many but West is one of ‘em,” James said. “I don’t want him to catch the ball … If you can limit someone’s catches, if you’re stopping someone from catching the ball, then they can’t score.”

About those bigger, stronger guys, LeBron – not a lengthy list? “Nah, it’s like David West. Shaq. Zeus. And my two boys, and that’s it.”

There were times when James did slip down between West and the basket, and the Indiana player was able to unseat and back him down even more, a rarity. Because Spoelstra chose to start Battier and match him up with Paul George, rather than the bigger Udonis Haslem, James’ size was needed down low.

“It’s a huge adjustment, starting the game off that way,” he said. “Able to go spot minutes at the four, I can do pretty effectively. It was definitely a challenge for me. I don’t think personally I was in the right spots at the right time.”

He’d rather not be there any of the time. Defending power players vs. roaming and working defensively farther from the rim is basically the difference between painting a barn and painting a masterpiece. At least, that’s how James sees it. Unshackled from the paint and the banging, he can gamble, switch, help on pick-and-rolls and freelance — things that turn defense into offense.

He obviously missed that freedom in Game 1.

“I’m a perimeter guy,” he told a crush of reporters. “I could do a lot of things, but I made my money being a perimeter guy. Obviously, with the circumstances of our team, we’re not the biggest team in the world. So I have to play big at times, I have to guard the bigger guys and try to do a number on that. So it’s challenging. But I’ve got to do it. At this point. I’m trying to get a trip to The Finals, so whatever it takes.”

On many, many occasions in James’ career, that pledge – “whatever it takes” – often has meant an exponential increase in scoring, a push past 40 points, even toward 50. But the distinct impression he left with those around him as Game 2 approached was that, it will be when Indiana has the ball that we’ll see the greatest adjustment from LeBron James.