Com­posed In­di­ana Pac­ers Mus­cle Past Mi­ami Heat

The Economic Times - - Sports -

se­ries were not a prob­lem in its fiveg­ame take­down of the perime­ter-fix­ated Nets. Pound­ing the ball in­side, the Pac­ers shot 17 free throws in the third quar­ter alone, and by the game’s con­clu­sion, they had taken 22 more than the Heat (37-15).

Game 1 felt far more im­por­tant to the Pac­ers, if only to chal­lenge the con­vic­tion that they had peaked months ago. What the Pac­ers were count­ing on was the adren­a­line rush of a ri­valry es­tab­lished with Mi­ami over the past two sea­sons, in­clud­ing last year’s seven-game con­fer­ence fi­nals. The teams have no great af­fec­tion for each other. “It will be ex­tremely phys­i­cal,” Spoel­stra said. “No­body’s go­ing to give any­thing up, but ev­ery­body un­der­stands the con­se­quences.”

With­out a point guard with su­pe­rior drib­ble pen­e­tra­tion skills, the Pac­ers need ag­gres­sive, cre­ative play from Stephen­son and Ge­orge. For all the fo­cus on Hib­bert, they are an ef­fec­tive team when both are forc­ing de­fen­sive break­downs and get­ting the big men in­volved. “Coach re­ally talked about set­ting the tone early,” said Ge­orge Hill, the Pac­ers’ other start­ing guard, who, like Hib­bert, has pulled off play­off van­ish­ing acts.

But Hill at­tacked the paint early, and with Ge­orge off to a quick start with 6 first-quar­ter points and 5 as­sists, the Pac­ers en­joyed a rare 30-point quar­ter in which they shot 61%. Their abil­ity to get into the lane opened up the 3-point line, where In­di­ana made six of its first eight at­tempts and wound up 8 for 19 over­all, com­pared with Mi­ami’s 6 for 23.

Stephen­son capped a 55-45 half when he backed James deep into the paint and dropped in a lefty scoop. The Heat ral­lied to within 11 with enough time to come back in the fourth quar­ter. But the Pac­ers kept mov­ing the ball, re­ly­ing on one an­other.

Mis­sion ac­com­plished, at least for the mo­ment. Nar­ra­tive changed. Per­cep­tion al­tered. Heat on their heels.

The New York Times

Roy Hib­bert (L) drives against Chris Bosh in Game 1 of the East­ern Con­fer­ence Fi­nals

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