(Photo Credit: Nathaniel Butler
The Miami HEAT host the Indiana Pacers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals tonight at AmericanAirlines Arena. The HEAT defeated the Pacers 4-2 in last season's Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. Tip off is set for 8:30 PM.
Couper Moorhead: While Indiana employs many of the same principles as the Chicago Bulls, this defense is a little safer in that it tries to keep the ball in front rather than funnel the ball into inefficient zones. That means the Pacers are generally OK with giving up mid-range jumpers, something that should benefit Chris Bosh throughout this series, but it doesn’t mean they just pack the paint and give up open threes. Between George Hill, Paul George and Lance Stephenson, there is a lot of length and athleticism on the perimeter, allowing the Pacers to swarm the paint while still closing out hard on the perimeter. Jumpers and floaters will be there, but the HEAT are going to have to work to generate threes.
2: How are the Pacers going to attack the HEAT?
Couper: Indiana post-ups more than any team in the league, so a large percentage of their possessions are going to revolve around setting up the post, working around it or using it as a decoy for a weakside action. It’s no secret that the HEAT are going to front the post as much as possible, especially when they use smaller, floor spacing lineups, and that’s going to put a ton of pressure on the second Miami big man to be ready to slide over and defend the lob. If you see the Pacers spending more than a few seconds trying to enter the ball into the post, then the HEAT are functioning as desired. The idea is to either force a turnover, or kill the clock until the Pacers have to resort to emergency offense – something Indiana does not excel at.
3: What has to consistently happen for the Pacers to win games in this series?
Couper: The HEAT cannot get threes, much less make them, but the Pacers have to keep finding ways to score to keep pace with Miami. Whether that means hitting tough, contested threes, getting career nights out of guys as they did with Lance Stephenson against New York or executing timing-based high-low offense to get around the HEAT fronts, they have to find a consistent source of efficiency. It doesn’t have to be the same source every game, but there has to be something that Indiana can rely on, even if it is something as simple as offensive rebounding.