The Indiana Pacers dominated the Miami Heat in game one of the Eastern Conference Finals. The Pacers led from wire-to-wire for the first time in what seems like over a year.
Indiana didn’t force its offense, or get bogged down by bad whistles, or let Miami assert its dominance even once this afternoon. The Pacers controlled the tempo and never let the Heat even threaten to reclaim the lead.
As coach Frank Vogel said, this is a just a great start to the series. Its one game but, as the talking heads continually reiterated before the game, whoever wins the first of a seven games series will go on to win said series 77-percent of the time.
Here’s what I like from today’s game:
The Pacers came out and decided to just take the game away from the Heat after the opening tip. George Hill, who has often been invisible against the Heat, came out aggressive and helped set an early tone. Hill’s final stat line wasn’t great, but what he did early (and later on defense) got the Pacers out to a rare fast start.
All five starters scored in the double digits. The Pacers had 35 made field goals and 23 assists on those buckets. Couple that with just 12 turnovers, a good number for the Pacers against the Heat, and it was the best offensive performance in months from Indiana.
The Pacers shot 51-percent from the field. It could have been better if they hadn’t gone 2-for-12 from the arc after hitting their first seven. This was by far the sharpest offesnsive performance we’ve seen from the Pacers since 2013.
Had Miami played a different defensive style, the game might have had a different result. They forced the Pacers into making plays without over thinking, and it actually worked. There were even times when David West was smiling.
If Indiana can play at something resembling this pace for multiple games, the series with Miami won’t last very long.
Before the season even started, the Pacers said that they wanted to have home court advantage against the Heat in the ECF. It was their goal all alone. Had the Pacers not won this game, it would have been devastating to their mental psyche.
The Pacers HAD to win game one. With all the talk, the way the last two series played out, and to keep home court advantage this was a must win for Indiana. It was almost a good thing the Pacers had five losses in the past two series as they appear to be the mentally tougher team, which is something I would never have written a few months ago.
This team’s mental state has been so fragile lately that one minor push could have turned this into a devastating sweep. Now, Indiana is in the drivers seat with a chance to push Miami to the limit for the first time in the postseason.
While we hate to complain about the officials, the referees left a lot to be desired Sunday. The third quarter in particular was hard to watch as foul after foul brought the game to a screeching halt.
The NBA needs to get something resembling consistency in what is and isn’t a foul. Early in the game, Roy Hibbert blocked a shot by Dwayne Wade. The official called a foul on David West. Replay showed that he never touched Wade prompting twitter to scratch its collective head.
That same thing happened a number of times. It would also help if we could clearly define what is and isn’t an illegal screen. When I learned to play basketball, you had to keep your arms in and couldn’t flare out your elbows. You also aren’t allowed to bear hug and then shove a defender into a screener who then holds said player. Much like LeBron James did to Paul George a number of times.
Both teams were the victim of bad calls. The Pacers were called for phantom fouls that didn’t happen, while the Heat were hit with some of the softest fouls you’ll ever see in the postseason. Clean up the officiating and the game is much more entertaining.
It is rare that one team has 22 more free throw attempts than the other. That said, the Pacers came out aggressive and earned those foul calls. They spent the entire game in attack mode. Miami could have done the same thing, but played passive.
To their credit, the Pacers seemed to shrug off the bad calls and rarely complained to the officials. Don’t expect the calls to get any better, its the NBA after all.