The scenery may be different but for the second straight year, the Eastern Conference Finals clash between the Miami Heat and the Indiana Pacers is tied at one game apiece.
Dwyane Wade said the Heat were looking to win all their games but he will be fairly satisfied with a tie heading back Miami, especially after the headscratching loss in Game 1.
The defending champions dominated the paint (54-38) and held a huge advantage in Fastbreak points (21-6). Normally that would result in a win but those were just about the only things they had the upperhand.
Miami’s offense was played fairly well considering were playing against the best defensive team in these Playoffs (first in Defensive rating at 97.9 points per 100 possessions), but they could have scored bit more than 96 in the first bout. Four players ended up with double-digit points however, not everyone played up to par ahem, Chris Bosh*** therefore the team as whole suffered.
The All-Star bigman was en fuego from 3point territory during the previous two rounds as he converted 52 percent of his outside shots. This series on the other hand has been a nightmare so far, having made missed all five of his tries from beyond the arc in Game 1. At least he managed to hit at least one in Game 2, though he is still 1-9 during this series and every miss chips away at his confidence and the respect Indiana has for his shooting ability.
Strangely, he still insists on shooting the majority of his field goals from midrange onwards rather than utilizing his quickness against the much slower centers, so it’s really no surprise he has scored just nine points in each of the first two games.
Bosh needs to make adjustments and look for easy inside shots or lay-ups which will make the defense view him as a genuine threat again. Plus, he may even be able to get draw some fouls and bridge the deficit in free-throw attempts.
Compared to Indiana’s whopping 37 attempts at the free-throw line, Miami had a measly 15 shots between them. You could perhaps argue the referees favoured the home team but even then, under no circumstances should you allow a team to have that large a deficit at the charity stripe while failing to get many for your two biggest offensive threats.
Wade and LeBron James, two players with a knack for finding their way to get some freebies, had just five free-throws between them. Meanwhile Roy Hibbert and Paul George continued to find themselves at the foul line, attempting 13 and eight shots respectively.
In Game 2, the Heat’s attempts tally didn’t change by much, but at least this time they were able to hold Indiana to just 15 FTAs and it’s no surprise they ended up with a win.
The difference: defense.
The Miami Heat simply let up on defense and the Pacers made them pay by scoring 106 points in Game 1. If it was any other team, that wouldn’t have been bad but this is a team that had surpassed the century mark just once this post season.
On several occasions Miami dozed off and allow the Pacers to sneak in for easy back door lay-ups en route to a 51percent field goal conversation rate and 23 assists. That sort of performance prompted Erik Spoelstra to say: “That was us at our worst defensively. We need to get back to doing what we do.”
They discussed the game as a team, acknowledged their blunders and put on a better show in Game 2 and held Indiana to 83 points on 40 percent shooting. In the words of LeBron James the defense looked re-energized while they flew around the court to harass the opposition they usually like they usually do.
“Game 1 we didn’t fly around,” he said. “We let them dictate and get everything they wanted and we didn’t play Miami Heat defense. But that’s what is good about this team; we go back, we watch the film and own up to the mistakes and then we come out and make it happen.
The burst of energy according to Dwyane Wade was thanks to the fire and play of their bench players. The standout this time around was Norris Cole who affected the game both offensively (finished with 11 points) and defensively, by putting great pressure on players such as Lance Stephenson as well as putting his body on the line for the team.
For instance Cole laid out for a loose ball on the floor and he later earned a loss ball foul after C.J. Watson nudged him while he tried to save a ball flying out-of-bounds.
“He played great,” said Wade. “The first unit came out a little sluggish and the guys off the bench gave us the extra push. Norris was aggressive and we that from guys coming off the bench.”
Nonetheless, there were still some lapses that would have surely irked Coach Spo such as LeBron James letting Stephenson waltz into the lane from the top of the key for an easy lay-up in first quarter. Then there was the tip in with 0.1 seconds to go in second quarter after LeBron, again, lost his bearings.
On the upside, at least there was a near five-minute stretch in the period whereby Indiana failed to make a single field goal.
The Heat will now be heading back to Miami in a high spirits ahead of Game 3 on Saturday (May. 24), but rest assured they will not be complacent. “We’re never satisfied until we close out the series, said James. We still got a lot of work to do.
“We get a couple of days off, but those are mental days for us to go through the film and see ways we can get better. Even though we played a great game, I believe we still have some things to cover.
“It’s not going to be pretty. Not in the Eastern Conference. It’s about who can sustain runs, who can get defensive stops, who can avoid turning the ball over and who can get great shots.”