Pacers 87, Heat 77
First off: Congratulations to the Pacers. They absolutely outplayed Miami in a game that probably will mean a lot for them down the road. I wasn't in love with some of Paul George's shots, but the dude was incredible in this game, continuing his rise as one of the league's top wing players. He's improved so, so much since the start of the season.
That said, this loss is noteworthy for Miami. For the second time in less than a week, a slow-paced team controlled tempo, limited turnovers and pounded the Heat on the glass. The Pacers duplicated the gameplan the Chicago Bulls used Friday and came away with a win. Miami allowed 22 offensive rebounds in this contest, and while that number isn't a huge problem in and of itself -- especially when Indiana takes 91 shots -- the fact that the Heat didn't compensate by forcing turnovers (Indiana only had nine) makes it stand out.
So, what's wrong with Miami on the glass? Is it simply a matter of not having enough size? To some extent, yes, but I think there are two bigger issues. One is easily fixable: a lack of effort. Watch LeBron James on this play, for example.
James literally just stands there and lets his man sneak right behind him for an easy putback layup. That's bad, but the solution is easy.
The trickier problem to solve: Miami's defensive scheme. As anyone who has watched the Heat over the last two years knows, they prefer an aggressive, trapping defense that double-teams ball screens and tries to force turnovers. When the defense is on, it's virtually impossible to move the ball. When it's not, though, there are some unfortunate byproducts that occur because teams catch the Heat's weakside defenders in rotation and can swing the ball easily. This explains why the Heat go through stretches where they struggle to defend the three-point line. I also think it explains, to some degree, why the Heat struggle on the glass.
Check out this play, for example. George pops open for a top-of-the-key three-pointer off a screen, and Chris Bosh, as he is asked to do, comes out very high to pressure the shot. That sets off a chain reaction that eventually allows Roy Hibbert and David West to play volleyball on the rim.
The decision to have Bosh contest George's shot has taken Miami's best rebounder away from the basket. A three-on-three battle between Indiana's two best rebounders and three Heat swingmen is an easy victory for Indiana. West eventually seals off James with inside position, grabs the board, throws an interior pass to Hibbert for a missed layup and an easy tip-in.
So, should Heat fans be concerned about their rebounding issues? I think we should analyze the issue in the same way we should analyze their propensity to give up threes. The Heat just so happen to use an aggressive defensive scheme that attempts to force turnovers and make perimeter shots difficult. There will be stretches where they don't force turnovers, and when that happens, they're vulnerable on the glass.
But the Heat succeeded when it mattered last year using this strategy, so I'm inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt.
This is the reality: the Rockets are a good team right now, and the Lakers, even if fully healthy, are not. A road loss by L.A., therefore, shouldn't be seen as surprising.
For more on the Rockets, read Paul Flannery.
The Timberwolves nearly let this one get away, but Dante Cunningham saved the day with a perimeter jumper to push the lead to three and a steal on the ensuing Hawks inbounds pass. What a find he's been.
Some day, the Timberwolves will get all their players healthy and in a cohesive rotation. Until then, I'll sit here and note that Derrick Williams plays way better when he's not buried. There's just nowhere to put him when everyone is healthy.
The Bucks looked listless for a while, but then LARRY SANDERS saved the day, allowing Jim Boylan to win his debut. I know Milwaukee is Milwaukee, but if I'm a free-agent head coach, I'm excited about the possibility of coaching a frontcourt of Sanders, John Henson and Ekpe Udoh. SO MUCH LENGTH.
Reggie Evans nearly had as many rebounds as the entire 76ers team. Yup.