Previewing Game 5 of the Pacers-Heat Eastern Conference Finals.
2. Where We Are: The Miami Heat are on the brink of a fourth straight NBA Finals appearance and just have to win one of the next three games to accomplish it. They're up 3-1 in the series after being beaten in Game 1. Since the initial defeat in the series, the Heat have controlled everything they need to control against the Indiana Pacers. Perhaps, it has been a stylistic aspect to their attack against the Pacers or maybe it's been Lance Stephenson poking the bear in the zoo with LeBron James, but this Heat team seems to have the proper motivation to finish out the series.
The flury of 3-point shooting by Ray Allen at the end of Game 3 and the mostly dominating performance of Chris Bosh and LeBron James in Game 4 have been the tipping point. The Pacers do what they do very well, but they don't have much flexibility or versatility in their game plan. The Heat, however, have been varying their attack with different weapons and different tactics of going outside to dominate inside. It's why they're so close once again to competing for the NBA championship.
3. The Big Number: 7. The Indiana Pacers aren't a team that forces a lot of turnovers, as they're more designed to force you into bad shots and protect the rim. However, forcing just seven turnovers in Game 4 is way too low for even them. The Heat had just two turnovers in the second half. That's probably why, when LeBron James was informed of Paul George's comments about the box score saying the Pacers outplayed them aside from the free throw line, he seemed confused. The advantage in taking care of the ball and the points that came off turnovers were too much in favor of Miami.
4. Key Adjustment: The Pacers are designed to beat you one way: dominate the paint on both ends. Granted, something has to come from the perimeter for them to stretch out the Miami defense and cut down on its ability to help on the post, but the game starts and ends for Indiana inside. There isn't a big adjustment they can make; they just have to find a way to dominate the post. David West has to have a big scoring impact to set up passing out of the post. Roy Hibbert has to be a competent scorer inside. The Pacers have to win the points-in-the-paint battle to see another game.
5. The Big Story: Is this Indiana Pacers team actually designed to beat the Heat? They've been setting themselves up over the past two seasons to be the counter to the Heat's small ball, versatile attack, but are the Pacers actually designed to beat Miami? They're a big team that wants to dominate the interior. It's an old-school mentality in a league that is much more perimeter-oriented. But in today's NBA, you need versatility and the Pacers don't really have that. They can play guys like Chris Copeland for a little bit of a small-ball attack, but he's not good enough to have an impact. The Pacers may need to abandon this philosophy or at least tweak it in order to truly challenge the Heat in the future.