They say basketball is a game of runs and while it certainly is, it’s also a game of makes and misses.
On Sunday afternoon in Game 4, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade didn’t miss often in the second half as the Miami Heat beat the Indiana Pacers 101-93 to even their semifinal series at two games apiece.
James put together a dominant performance, totaling 40 points, 18 rebounds and nine assists in what turned into a must-win for the Heat when the Pacers took an eight-point lead at halftime.
Wade, who struggled mightily through the first three-plus games, exploded in the second half. He made 11 consecutive shots after a slow start aided once again by the tough defense of Paul George. Wade had far-and-away his best game of the series, notching 30 points, nine boards and six assists after scoring just five points last Thursday night.
The Pacers had a chance to put their foot on the throat of the favored Heat, but the wheels came off for a few reasons.
West and Hibbert Go Missing
Joel Anthony has played very well, but the Pacers should own the paint against the Heat because of their size advantage with the absence of Chris Bosh. Roy Hibbert, the star of Indiana’s dominant Game 3 victory, was almost nonexistent on offense.
Hibbert attempted nine shots, making four of them. Miami has taken to fronting Hibbert in the paint, taking away the easy post entry pass. There were a few instances in which he appeared to be the first option, but the Pacers quickly looked in another direction when they were unable to feed him in the post.
He’s 7-foot-2; there are ways to get him the ball.
Hibbert wasn’t the only post player ignored in Game 4. David West, the team’s emotional leader, was 3-for-8 from the field. He dealt with foul trouble, picking up two quick ones in the first quarter, but should have more than eight attempts in 28 minutes.
The Heat went to what worked -- feeding James and Wade. The Pacers, powered all season by the post play of Hibbert and West, tried to win the game on the perimeter.
Haslem Seizes the Day
The Pacers have been content to allow James and Wade to accumulate their points as long as they don’t explode and a third option doesn’t hit big shots. On Sunday, all three things came together for Erik Spoelstra. James and Wade scored 70 combined points and they got several big-time jumpers from an unlikely source.
Udonis Haslem, who has played his entire career with Miami, hit four huge shots in the fourth quarter with the Pacers hanging around and threatening to pull to within a possession or two. After recently losing his jumper, he finished with 14 much-needed points in 25 minutes.
To put it simply, if James and Wade are going to dominate, the Pacers can’t allow a third player to hit meaningful shots. Mario Chalmers was hot in Game 3, but that was fine because Wade was nonexistent.
If Frank Vogel is going to take anything positive out of the loss, he can rest knowing that his team was alive until the final seconds despite Miami’s exceptional second half. The Heat finished the game shooting 47.5% from the field, marking the first time an opponent has topped 44% against the Pacers this postseason.
It didn’t help that Indiana hit just 41.8% of their own shots and grabbed a mind-numbingly low eight offensive rebounds.
The Third Quarter
After being outscored 54-26 in the third quarter in their two losses, the Heat put it to the Pacers after halftime in Game 4. Not only did Miami put up a 30-point quarter, but they also held Indiana to 16 points on 6-for-18 shooting. The Pacers only managed 18 shots because they committed seven turnovers. That means they attempted a shot on just 70% of their trips down the floor.
The third period also saw the Heat rip off a 17-2 run that allowed James and Wade to assert themselves as the dictators of the game.
The First Quarter That Wasn’t
The Pacers held a 25-18 lead after a strong first quarter, but the gap between the two teams should have been much larger.
They went 8-for-23 (34.7%) from the field and settled for a number of long jumpers when they had the Heat backpedaling in the first five minutes. Indiana attempted eight threes in the quarter alone.
One of Vogel’s many catch-phrases; the Pacers have looked to beat Miami’s tough defense with superior ball movement in the series. The trick? Move the ball enough to force the Heat to rotate at least twice, therefore getting a better shot attempt.
As I did in Game 3, I charted each offensive possession and characterized each by the number of passes made and the outcome.
Overall, I analyzed 86 possessions, not including two putbacks and anything that I deemed a fast break (which the Pacers were dreadful on).
Passes (% of POS), FG%, TO%, FT%*
Zero (10.5), 42.9, 11.1, 11.1
One (39.5), 40.7, 11.7, 8.8
Two (20.9), 42.9, 5.5, 16.7
Three (15.1), 30, 15.4, 7.7
Four-Plus (14), 50, 16.7, N/A
*Percentage of possessions that ended in free throws
The Pacers had their highest shooting percentage on possessions that featured the most passes, but there were a number of instances in which they overpassed. This was especially so on penetration when higher-percentage shots were passed on in favor of a dish to the perimeter. That is the reason for Miami’s 50-32 edge in the paint and Indiana’s 7-for-22 performance from deep.
The Heat, meanwhile, went 5-for-12 from three-point land after an epic struggle from deep through the first three games of the series.