True Hoops

True Hoops

Monday, June 3, 2013

Defeat the Repeat?

Can lighting strike three times for the Indiana Pacers???
You might recall that I sarcastically congratulated Indiana after their game 4 victory over Miami and pretty much implied that they couldn't duplicate that effort two more times in this series.

Well, it seems as if they managed to duplicate it in game 6. Compare their last two wins:

Game 4 points:                                                            Game 6 points:
1) Lebron shoots under 50% (45%)                               1) LeBron shoots under 50% (48%)
2) Hibbert shoots over 60% (63%)                                 2) Hibbert shoots 55%
3) Indy out-rebounded Miami by 19!                              3) Indy out-rebounded Miami by 20!
4) Wade held to 16 points                                             4) Wade held to 10 points
5) Bosh held to 7 points & 3 rebounds                           5) Bosh held to 5 and 4
6) Indy hits miraculous three pointer to end third             6) George hits big three late in 4th
7) LeBron fouls out of game                                          7) LeBron gets offensive foul & tech in 4th

Eerily similar.

Can it happen again tonight?
It's possible!

And here is why. For the series:
Wade has averaged 14.5 points (45%) to go along with 4.5 rebounds & 4.8 assists a game.
Bosh has averaged 11.3 points (41%) to go along with 3.7 rebounds per game.
Indy has out-rebounded Miami every game this series - a total of 61 rebounds (average 10 per game!)
Hibbert has averaged 23 points and 11 rebounds on 55% shooting.

Are you ready for a reality check?
Indiana is the better overall team this series.
No, seriously.

With all of those numbers above, how is this thing even close you might ask?
Well there is that guy LeBron James. And in each of Miami's wins he has had huge performances.
Game 1 - triple double (30-10-10) with the game winning lay-up as time expired.
Game 3 - 12 points in the second quarter (18 in the first half) to demoralize the pacers.
Game 5 - 16 points in the third quarter to demoralize the Pacers.

For the series his numbers are 28.5 points (on 52% shooting) to go with 7 rebounds and 5.5 assists a game.

But here is another crazy reality check:
LeBron's stats aren't that much greater than that of Indy's two stars. As great as LeBron has been, Hibbert has been as dominant and Paul George has been almost as good. George's numbers for the series: 21.5 points (on 50% shooting) to go with 6 rebounds and 5 assists. And in his last two games he has pretty much equaled LeBron: 27.5 points (on 58% shooting) to go along with 9.5 rebounds and 5 assists.

George also happens to have the two best plays of the series and three incredibly clutch plays (his three pointer last game to put Indiana back up by 7 might have been the biggest play of the game).

Okay, okay you get it. Indiana is a good team.
But here is the scary thing for the Pacers:
If they don't win the boards by at least 10 and if anyone besides LeBron has a decent game, then Miami is going to win. Plus they have no depth. If one of their starters gets in foul trouble then they are in trouble. And for all their front court dominance, in 2/3 games they have won, they needed all 5 starters to score in double figures.

So do you want some Game 7 keys and possible adjustments???

For Miami:

1) LeBron needs to get 10-12 rebounds. 
And this might be more important than him getting 45 points. They can't afford to get killed on the glass. Perhaps getting Birdman back will help in this regard.

2) Someone, and it can be anyone, has to support LeBron.
The Heat are 3-1 in games this series where 3-4 players other than LeBron score double figures, even if it's less than 20 points. In games where only two other players score double figures they are 0-2.

3) Play Mike Miller more?
Shane battier is 2 for 16 this series (all three point attempts).
Ray Allen is is 13 for 56 (7 for 24 from three).
Mike Miller has only played 18 minutes this series. But he is 3 for 3 (all three point attempts). He can rebound and pass better than the other two. Plus he provided a spark last game in the 4th quarter.

4) Get easy looks for Wade/Bosh.
Run Wade off of down screens so he can curl to the basket for either easy buckets or drop off passes to a big for lay-ups. Also, run him off of some more screens on the ball. He shouldn't necessarily take 20 shots but he won't do you any good taking 8-11 shots. He shouldn't necessarily look to create for himself one-on-one but he is a rhythm player, so he won't do you any good on spot-ups. Especially now with his injuries, he has to get moving to get going.

Spot Bosh up in the corner for threes & and involve him in pick and pops. Bosh is a spot up shooter and he can he can draw Hibbert away from the basket. Keeping him involved in the offense may also motivate him to get some more rebounds.

5) Double Roy Hibbert in the post.
If not to prevent him from scoring, then to prevent him from getting offensive rebounds. Front him and get weak side help - put two bodies on him to block him out! They should probably look to double off Lance Stevenson and make him make spot-up jump-shots. They could also look to double off of Hansborough and even West at times when they are situated on the high post.

6) Zone defense? 
Paul George has been able to get to the basket at will and Hibbert owns the paint. Why not turn the Pacers into a jump shooting team and have 5 guys in the paint when the shot goes up? Miami won't do this becuase it isn't true to their identity - but they have the speed and athleticism to make the adjustment on the fly. Could Indiana make the appropriate adjustments on the fly, especially when facing a zone would be a super surprise and place them further out of their comfort than it would Miami by playing it?

7) LeBron has to have another amazing performance in game 7.
Yes, this is obvious. So lucky for Miami, this is more than likely to happen!
He has played three game 7's in his career. His averages:
34 points (46% shooting), 8 rebounds, 3 assists a game.

And also lucky for Miami, LeBron has already saved Miami by himself! Remember last year, when he   had to Drop 45 & 15 in Boston? Wade was the only other player in double figures that game with 17. Does he have to do that this time? Perhaps a performance like last year's ECF game 7 will suffice, 31 points with 12 rebounds. Wade scored 23 that game and Bosh had 19. That would be welcomed tonight.

Whether he goes for 30 or 40, forget all of that talk that going back to "Cleveland mode" has been a  detriment to his team. The most shots he has attempted in a game this series is 26 - and that was in their game 5 win. He is averaging less than 21 shots a game. I would hardly say that is too much. He needs to attack and shoot - maybe not the whole game but certainly during crucial stretches. In fact, their were times when Indiana was on the ropes in game 2 and 4, but were able to get back into it because LeBron wasn't as involved offensively. 5-6 minutes really can make the difference between winning and losing. LeBron scored 12 points in 6 minutes to close out the third in game 5 and put the Pacers away.

He will get his teammates involved, but there will be a time when he has to take over. And in general,  his dominance opens things up for his teammates, not the other way around.

And as a minor note, I don't know if putting him in too many in pick and roll situations is a good idea. He'll either face a hedging defender or get doubled. Instead, maybe use him as the screener, especially with Wade - this will force Indiana to chose between letting Wade turn the corner or helping off LeBron. Also, LeBron in the post and running him off of down screens is a good look.

For Indiana:

1) Feed the bigs
Go with what has got you here. Let Hibbert eat offensively. And let West continue to bully.

2) Isolate Paul George on the top of the key.
At this point it seems neither LeBron or Wade can stay in front of him. He has been able to get by his man consistenly to finish at the rim. If a help defender comes at him then it opens things up for Indiana's bigs.

3) Double LeBron and make him a passer
Especially off pick and rolls. Remember those two turn overs at the end of game two? They came by throwing another defender at LeBron and turning him into a passer. Besides, has anyone on the Heat shown they can consistently make plays and/or open jump shots? If Udonis Haslem beats you, then hey, what can you do?

4) Guard play
In Indiana's wins, George Hill's stats: 17.6 points (48%) with 4 rebounds and 5 assists.
In Indiana's loses, George Hill's stats: 8.3 points (30%) with 1.7 rebounds and 4.3 assists.
Pretty self explanatory, no?

5) How critical will Lance Stevenson be in this game?
In how many aspects of the game?
How about taking turns guarding LeBron - to give George a breather? Think about this, in Miami's game 5 win LeBron scored 16 points in the third quarter on 7 for 13 shooting. In the 4th quarter with Stevenson mostly guarding him, LeBron went 1 for 7 scoring three points. I'm just saying.

Also, if Miami does double off Stevenson, leaving him open for three, he shouldn't settle for long range jumpers! Rather, attack the basket for a dunk or foul. Or at the very least drive to the basket to draw a defender off Hibbert/West to open up a pass or the offensive glass. Furthermore, if the Heat send an extra defender to block out Hibbert/West - that leaves plenty of opportunities for Stevenson to crash the offensive glass himself for second chance points.

6) Keep the game close
Games in which Miami led by double figures going into the 4th, Indiana is 0-2.
Games in which the score was within single digits, either way, Indiana is 3-1.

So you're saying if the game is close going into the 4th, Indiana has an excellent chance of winning?

7) Cognizant or ignorant?
You could argue experience is important for these pressurized game 7's.
Miami has faced an elimination game on the road before as well as last's year's conference Finals game 7  at home.

This is Indiana's first elimination game on the road and first game 7.
But sometimes, being naive to the significance of the moment can be a blessing.
I guess we'll find out tonight.

How about some game 7 history for you???
Other notable game 7's, with super stars, that ultimately led to a championship:

1992 Bulls vs Knicks game 7
Jordan: 42 points (52%), 6 rebounds, 4 assists
Pippen: 17 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists
Grant: 14 points, 6 rebounds
Armstrong: 12 points, 5 assists

1998 Bulls vs Pacers game 7
Jordan: 28 points (36%), 9 rebounds, 8 assists
Pippen: 17 points, 12 rebounds
Kukoc: 21 points
Kerr: 11 points

2005 Spurs vs Pistons game 7
Duncan: 25 points (37%), 11 rebounds
Ginobli: 23 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists
Horry: 15 points, 5 rebounds

2008 Celtics vs Cavs game 7
Pierce: 41 points (57%), 4 rebounds, 5 assists
Garnett: 13 points, 13 rebounds
Rondo: 8 points, 8 rebonds, 8 assists
PJ Brown: 10 points, 6 rebounds

2010 Lakers vs Celtics game 7
Kobe: 23 points (25%), 15 rebounds
Gasol: 19 points, 18 rebounds
World-Peace: 20 points
Fisher: 10 points

2012 Heat vs Celtics game 7
LeBron: 31 points (43%), 12 rebounds
Wade: 23 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists
Bosh: 19 points (on 10 shots), 8 rebounds
Battier: 12 points

So, very rarely does the team with the superstar (or at least more than one star) lose a game 7 at home.
But very rarely is it a one man show. And while the superstar leads the way, it's not always done efficiently.

Interestingly enough, there are two game 7's I can think of in which the home team with the superstar did in lose (although these games didn't lead to a championship).
1995: When Indiana beat the Knicks at the Garden. New York had Ewing and were the favorites
2005: When Detroit beat the Heat in Miami. The Heat had Shaq and Wade (ironically, Wade was also injured for that game).
Does it mean anything that both cases involve Indiana and Miami?

Make no mistake, this is a LEGACY game for LeBron.
He will go down as a top ten player all time.
But what kind of player will he be?

Oscar Robinson and win 1 championship?
Wilt Chamberlain and win 2, several years apart?
Bird or Duncan and win multiple, but never two in a row?
Or Jordan, Magic, Jabbar, Shaq, & Kobe  - Winning 2-3 tittles in a row?

As per - in the last 50 years (since the Celtics in the 60's) only 4 franchises have won two or more titles in a row (Lakers three times, Bulls twice, Pistons once, and Rockets once).
Winning it this year puts LeBron in elite company champions wise and gives him an opportunity to do something even rarer next year.

So what will it be???

Well, ask yourself these questions:
Do you really think Wade and Bosh and Miami as a whole will put up another collective dud?
Do you really think Miami will get out-rebounded by 15 or more at home?
By default, LeBron will get 25-30 points. Do you think he won't focus more on rebounding tonight and go for more than 30 if the game is close (and it will be close)?

I'll tell you what. If Indiana can enforce the first two scenarios and overcome the latter - on the road - then bless them, they would have earned it.

But the real question is, what did we as fans do to earn such a potentially amazingly fantastic game 7?!?
So much drama, physicality, distain, pressure, and x factors and so much of the future at stake!
The only thing left to do now is to sit back, relax, and enjoy the show!


  1. I disagree with 3) Double LeBron and make him a passer. Instead play him straight up while hedging over with active hands and length, aslo keep Hibbert in the game while Lebron is on the court (game one lesson learned). In addition Indian should make a point of getting Birdman and/or Haslem in foul trouble early. It doesn't seem to matter if Miami doubles Hibbert but they can get "easy" high percentage buckets from those 2 guys, so eliminate that from the jump.

    Miami's key is Lebron has to apologize to his guys (Wade & Bosh) for the disrespectful "Cav days" comments and stop being a weirdo, lol. This is a team game, comradery and trust is huge. Indiana has played an excellent series bc of that.

    1. I agree that the Cleveland comment was misplaced. Just didn't seem like the right thing to say - especially when he has had those sorts of games in Miami anyway. And I agree that more than likely he should be telling Wade and Bosh how much he needs them. But I also think the media is overhyping the drama/rift behind that comment. With that said, if they incorporate those guys into the natural flow of the offense better, then they should be more productive.

      As far as make LeBron a passer - I think there is no question MIami is worse off when he is not aggressive or looking to attack. I don't know if they should double him in the post - because they have Hibbert to protect the rim. But definitely hedge hard on pick and rolls. That's how they got one of the game two turnovers.

      No question Indiana has played better and more well balanced this series.

  2. Great write-up! Please do another prior to the winner of this series vs the spurs game 1.

    1. Thanks!
      Of course there will be one to preview the Finals!