Welcome to the Daily NBA Fix for Monday, May 19, the morning after the Indiana Pacers morphed back into the team we saw in November, December and January.
The Pacers on Sunday in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals were the team we saw in the early part of the season—efficient offensively, terrific defensively and not reliant on one player to make things happen.
The Pacers scored 107 points with no player taking more than 13 shots—that’s efficiency.
But bear in mind their opponent is the Miami Heat, the same Heat team that has lost every Game 1 on the road since LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh decided to do their super friends thing in the summer of 2010.
The Heat’s offense relies an awful lot on drive-and-kick sets, where one of their posse of great penetrators collapses the defense into the paint, then finds open shooters at the 3-point line. That was there against Indiana on Sunday.
The problem was that Miami was excellent only at running the drive-and-clank offense, wherein the ball penetrates the lane and gets kicked out to an open shooter, who clanks an open 3.
The Heat were just 6-for-23 from 3-point range on Sunday—26.1 percent, their lowest mark of the playoffs by far for a team shooting 37.4 percent from distance in the postseason.
When you add in the familiar problems Miami has of not having anybody who can really match up with massive Roy Hibbert—who was good Roy Hibbert on Sunday—and not being able to rebound and what you get is what you saw, an 11-point win for the Pacers.
Indiana is now 6-1 at home against Miami in the last two seasons, including the playoffs, but Miami is 16-3 in the last four years in series after losing Game 1—they’ve never lost a series after dropping the first game.
The one guy Miami brought in that might have been able to match up with Indiana’s size was where he has been the entire postseason—in street clothes.
Greg Oden was inactive again, after playing only 23 regular season games in his first NBA action since December 2009, when he wrecked one of his fragile knees again just a game after posting the first 20-rebound game of his career, coincidentally enough against the Heat.
Oden was the guy who was basically brought in specifically for this series after Miami watched Hibbert dominate them inside during last year’s Eastern Conference Finals.
No Oden on Sunday meant Hibbert had the ability to dominate inside and, while he wasn’t exactly Hakeem Olajuwon, he wasn’t the lost soul we’ve seen so often during the early rounds of the playoffs this year, either.
He scored 19 points, had nine rebounds and the Pacers outscored the Heat by 19 points while he was on the floor.
James was surprisingly passive in Game 1, scoring 25 points, but not really attacking the rim, as evidenced by his two free-throw attempts, four fewer than Pacers backup point guard C.J. Watson had in 23 fewer minutes on the court.
Mario Chalmers, meanwhile, was awful. He had six points on 2-of-9 shooting in 37 minutes, but at least he had a really nice cheap shot on Watson, and Bosh missed all five of his 3-point attempts and had nine points and two rebounds—the production you really want from an All-Star on a near-max deal.
But we’ve been here before with the Heat—down 1-0 in the playoff series—so we might want to hold off burying them after just 48 minutes in the series.
the Daily NBA Fix will focus on the happenings around the Association, along with a look at the daily lines for those who want to drop a buck or two on a wager. Here’s some highlights from Sunday’s action: