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Miami Heat vs. Indiana Pacers Game 5 preview: Can Pacers salvage one at home?

May 28, 2014, 8:44 AM EDT

Indiana Pacers v Miami Heat - Game 4 Getty Images

I would not be shocked if the Pacers came out Wednesday night with a sense of desperation and played their best game in months, pounding the ball inside and playing the suffocating defense we saw in Game 1, the defense that got them the top seed in the East.

I also would not be surprised if they came out, rolled over and basically surrendered Game 5 once the Heat put on a little run.

Indiana has been the most frustratingly inconsistent, immature team of these playoffs. That has been increasingly evident as they have dropped their last three games to the Miami Heat and now stand on the brink of elimination down 3-1 in the Western Conference Finals. Maybe being in a must win game will refocus them on defense, get them to play to their strengths on offense.

Or maybe not. Who knows?

After an ugly outing in Game 4, rather than own that they got beat wire-to-wire and completely outplayed, the Pacers’ stars were pointing fingers and foolishly blaming the referees. That’s not a good sign for how they will come out in Game 5.

Coach Frank Vogel is trying to get his players to focus back on the court and the game, not the officials or anything else. And maybe have Lance Stephenson stop providing fuel to fire of LeBron James.

If the Pacers are going to win it will start with defense — in the regular season the Pacers allowed a league best 96.7 points per 100 possessions and allowed opponents to shoot 42 percent. The Heat are shooting 50.7 percent and have an offensive rating of 111.5 this series — Indiana, a defense built to slow the Heat, has not even come close. Miami has been able to go small with Chris Andersen out (and he is likely out for Game 5) and the Pacers have not made them pay a price. The Pacers struggles on offense are fueling the Heat’s transition game.

On offense, Indiana is often setting poor screens that are letting the Heat defenders fight over and through them. Miami’s defensive game plan is to be aggressive and force turnovers and combine that with guys fighting through screens and much smaller passing windows you get a Pacers team that is tentative on passes. Which means less ball movement. Which means tougher shots and the Pacers being easier to guard.

Indiana needs to run the offense more through David West on post ups (low block and at the high post) and Hibbert (on the low block) — then those two have to finish in the paint. They have not consistently.

Expect the Heat to come out playing with real energy on the road — they both know how to close a series out and understand a win Wednesday means a week off of rest before the Finals start. Dwyane Wade’s knees would appreciate that.

Chris Bosh came alive in Game 4 and if he is confident again and knocking down jumpers that’s trouble for the Pacers because it pulls Hibbert out of the paint and opens up driving lanes for LeBron and Wade. Miami is also using its defense to create transition and early offense points for itself, which is what they do best.

After Game 4, it’s easy to suggest that Pacers are back to imploding again, as they seemed to do the second half of this season and during parts of the playoffs. However, when threatened in this postseason they have put together their best games.

I have no idea what Pacers team will show up for Game 5. Sounds like the Pacers do not either.

  1. hehateme2 - May 28, 2014 at 8:55 AM

    Maybe? With all the crying from the spacer fans that the “fix is in” I’m sure the refs will be overly generous to them tonight. However, they are far to immature to take the reigns from the Heat. It’s over.

    • gofinsgoheatfloria - May 28, 2014 at 10:00 AM

      It’s not over. The Pacers playing their best game are very tough to beat, and, who knows, maybe they feel so stupid for things they said before and after Game 4 that they will actually buckle down to the task at hand. OTOH – it is bizarre that by going home, they will be playing where they are below .500 for the playoffs. Anybody who predicted that, please tell me how much you want for your crystal ball; I could use it..

      A spectacular end to the ECF would be for things to go badly enough for the Pacers that their fans start booing them on national TV, as they did in game 5 vs. Atlanta. What a send-off to the off-season that would be for their players, most of whom don’t deserve anything like that; they’re doing the best they can in a lousy situation. But I’m not going to bet on it.

    • fanofthegame79 - May 28, 2014 at 11:17 AM

      As a Heat fan, I’m betting on the Pacers tonight. The Heat will win this at home in game 6.

      • buffalowned - May 28, 2014 at 11:40 AM

        The Heat don’t lose closeout games. You’re wasting your money…they will win tonight

      • fanofthegame79 - May 28, 2014 at 2:46 PM

        I’m hoping so!

    • brookwell2013 - May 28, 2014 at 12:18 PM

      I have no clue who shows up tonight for the Pacers. It’s an absolute mystery to me. They’re all out to beat the 8th seed Atlanta, then have a few poor ganmes against the Wizards, continue their zig zagging against the Heat, whining about refs and Hibbert flat out disappears…..I think all of us on this Board know that the Pacers sure don’t look, act or play like a championship team.

  2. musketmaniac - May 28, 2014 at 9:48 AM

    The king will get ten titles, will ten be enough to unseat Jordan. probably not.

  3. miamatt - May 28, 2014 at 9:54 AM

    As the post states, nothing tonight would shock me.

    Every time the Pacers have looked finished this postseason, they have come out and played a good game.

    But Miami is neither Washington nor Atlanta. And the public statements by George and West after game 4 will surely be taken as disrespect.

    • gofinsgoheatfloria - May 28, 2014 at 10:10 AM

      “the public statements by George and West after game 4 will surely be taken as disrespect.”

      Surely, but I do wonder how much that matters as high school gets smaller and smaller in the rear-view mirror. The elite work so hard at their game that I guess I just can’t imagine where they would find the time to pay much attention to that kind of thing. I’m just saying how it seems to me – I certainly can’t claim to see the world from their vantage point.

      • kinggw - May 28, 2014 at 11:17 AM

        It matters. Lets not be naive, LBJ said Stephenson’s comments didn’t bother him. Game 4 proved otherwise. He was clearly more aggressive and it trickled down to the rest of his team.

        Granted, at this point the Heat don’t need any additional motivation, but I think they will be mindful that their opponent only thinks they won because of the officiating. Jordan was famous for using the smallest slights for motivation and I think players like Kobe and LBJ are no different. They won’t comment to the press about it but it’s in the back of their mind and I’m sure LBJ and the rest of the Heat want to prove to the Pacers and their fans that the Heat don’t need the benefit of the officiating to beat them.

  4. cruelintentions662 - May 28, 2014 at 10:19 AM

    Miami didn’t cry about fouls in Game 1 of this series, when Indy had a plus 19 on the stats sheet. The Heat players did not blame the refs, they just said we need to play better. Maybe the Pacers players need to take notes. This series is over!!

  5. chargerdillon - May 28, 2014 at 10:28 AM

    Whether the Pacers were to take this to 7 or not, I still don’t see them beating the heat in a game when it matters.

  6. nard100 - May 28, 2014 at 10:36 AM

    I expect them to win tonight and then lose in Miami. They always play much better at home. Heat are going to the finals. The west on the other hand is a different matter. It looked initially like a cakewalk for the Spurs. Now, not so much. I hope it goes to 7! Go Heat!

    • zoomy123 - May 28, 2014 at 2:42 PM

      Indiana plays much better at home? They’re below .500 in the playoffs, the got smashed in a closeout game on their home floor vs. Washington, and in game 2 they got out-executed from the opening second to the closing second of the 4th quarter.

  7. loungefly74 - May 28, 2014 at 10:37 AM

    I have no dog in this fight. That said…The Pacers are scared of the Heat. The Heat will win this game or 6…the Pacers are a trainwreck while the Heat just continue to display the swagger of a champion. Yeah, I want the “good guy” Pacers to win if I was aksed who I’m rooting for but they can’t beat Miami…plain n’ simple.

    • heat256 - May 28, 2014 at 11:43 AM

      I don’t think they are scared of the Heat. They have bigger issues in dealing with their own fragile mental states than worrying about the Heat. Their path was supposed to be easier as the top seed and they have been tested more and more with each round. They responded on the first two, but was it more than the Hawks and Wizards not being ready to make the next step rather than the pacers being that good? They have a great defense, but so did the Bulls, and go to scoring is a necessity to advance in the playoffs. I don’t think the Pacers have that guy as George is way too streaky and West is a complimentary guy at best at this point.

      • loungefly74 - May 28, 2014 at 12:16 PM

        great point.

    • packergator - May 28, 2014 at 12:18 PM

      I sense a certain resentment and level of contempt by the Pacers. They’re like the middle school bully that can stand over almost everyone, but rolls over and cries when he gets hit in the mouth by someone bigger, faster, and/or stronger.

  8. bougin89 - May 28, 2014 at 10:54 AM

    It’s too hard to predict the Pacers in these playoffs. It wouldn’t shock me if they beat the Heat by 15. It also wouldn’t shock me if the Heat beat them by 25.

    Even though it looked like they regained their mojo winning 7 games in 9 tries stretching from the last two games against the Hawks, through the Wizards series, and the first game against the Heat I’m not sure they’ve been more unfocused in the last 2.25 games.

    It’s like the moment Paul George was concussed the Pacers just kind of lost “it”.

  9. ravenswhat - May 28, 2014 at 11:52 AM

    Uh yeah, they are done. It’s humerous how people continue to hold out hope for them against the heat though.

  10. marcusfitzhugh - May 28, 2014 at 12:55 PM

    Indy has blamed each other and the refs. The coach and the fans are the next logical candidates. If they get blown out by 20, make a run and only lose by 10, they can spend the off season saying they’re more mature and how they’re sure that with home court in the 2015 ECF they will do better (like possibly winning two games).

    Is it too early to say Mark Jackson would be a good coach for these misfits.

  11. crossroadspastor - May 28, 2014 at 1:09 PM

    It doesn’t matter which Spacer team shows up, tonight. Neither one can beat the Heat, when it matters. They are vastly overrated, outmatched, unprepared, and poorly coached. They have no leader, and their “Stars,” are not stars. The big mystery is how did they ever make it this far?

  12. crossroadspastor - May 28, 2014 at 1:16 PM

    They’ll lose tonight, fire the non English speaking Vogel, tomorrow, and, if they’re smart, they’ll get started on the rebuild.

  13. Jeff - May 28, 2014 at 4:04 PM

    Pacers were done three months ago. I am surprised they’ve hung around this long. I’m disappointed with them, with their lack of heart and lack of execution. As the cliche goes, actions speak louder than words, and their actions haven’t matched their words all season long. They let home-court advantage slip through their fingers each and every series this post season.

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