The Indiana Pacers have an opportunity to take a two game lead over the defending champions tonight. The Pacers beat the Miami Heat in just about every phase of the game last Sunday.
Tonight, they can put all the pressure on Miami. Indiana doesn’t want to lose home court advantage so quickly in the series but this won’t be the same Heat team we saw in game one.
Expect Miami to come out with more energy, a renewed effort, and greater efficiency. The Heat won’t be going through the motions on defense and LeBron James will come out looking to last waste to the basketball court.
We have seen this team fail to show in far too many games over the past few months. Hopefully the importance of this game isn’t lost on the Pacers and they come out with the same edge as they did Sunday.
Here is what stands out for Tuesday’s game:
Push the Advantage
Even if the Heat start Udonis Haslem, it shouldn’t manner. Hibbert and West are much better, and bigger, players.
The Pacers can’t get away from their strengths. This applies to defense as well. Hibbert had just one block in the first game, and Ian Mahinmi was less than effective on the low block. We didn’t see any plays where verticality rules would apply, but expect to see that as the Heat attack the paint more tonight.
The Pacers had 23 assists on 35 made field goals on Sunday. That is players setting up their teammates with open shots. They didn’t run isolation plays and no one tried to win the game all on their own. When the Pacers are getting stops on defense and moving the ball, they look unstoppable.
It wasn’t just a lackluster effort on defense that felled the Heat on Sunday, it was also pinpoint passing. Hill didn’t have any assists, but he did make the extra pass that helped find the open man. Lance Stephenson let the game come to him, and found every open man (instead of forcing a bad shot).
This goes hand-in-hand with turnovers. The Pacers average 15 turnovers against the Heat this season, but had just 12 in the opening game of the series. That may still seem like a high number, but its pretty good for the Pacers.
This has been a key for the Pacers all season long.
How many times have we seen the Pacers come up with a big win, only to underwhelm the next night they took the court? Something like the past four months?
Its way past time for the Pacers to put in back-to-back dominant performances. Losing home court advantage just a game into the series would be a big blow for Indiana.
We need to see the frantic lockdown defense this team has become known for, or used to be known for at least. Players hustling for rebounds and loose balls. And play to the same level that Miami comes into game two with.
The Pacers also need to play smart, something they did awfully well in game one. They were able to play tight defense without fouling, something that rarely happens for any team against the Heat. We won’t see another 22 free throw attempt disparity, but the Pacers can’t let calls get under their skin.
If the Pacers come out focused, and are able to withstand the Heat’s opening salvo, they will take the lead in the series and put all the pressure on Miami.