David West is embracing the physical, sloppy nature of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals and has the Indiana Pacers ahead of the defending champion Miami Heat, 42-37, on Wednesday night at American Airlines Arena.
Turnovers were the story of the first 24 minutes of the game as both teams combined for 25 giveaways, which was the catalyst for the low-scoring output.
West scored 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting while taking advantage of the Heat's lack of size inside, but finished the second quarter on the bench with three fouls. Roy Hibbert added 11 points to accentuate that issue, shooting 5 of 10.
LeBron James started off hot in the first quarter, but was held scoreless in the second as Paul George played stellar defense on him to end the half. James finished with four assists, and Dwyane Wade scored six points on 3-of-5 shooting.
The first quarter featured James and West having their way with the opposing defense before both teams got stagnant on offense. For the 2013 reigning NBA MVP, a 4-of-6 shooting performance from the field in the first 12 minutes got him going early as he finished with nine points. West answered to lead all scorers with 10 on a similarly efficient 4-of-5 shooting.
Both squads shot the ball well and topped the 50 percent mark in the first frame. Turnovers, accentuated by physical play, kept the score low as Indiana committed seven turnovers while Miami totaled six.
SB Nation's own Kevin Zimmerman broke down three key questions before the big game. Let's revisit them:
Will small ball work?
The Heat are all about transition and struggle to rebound, so they will have to attack the Pacers' stout defense by upping the temp and getting easy baskets. Their ability to do so will dictate a lot of the momentum in this series. Thus far, the lack of size is hurting them on the glass as the Heat are getting outrebounded, 19-12.
Normally, the transition game is the Heat's saving grace when they struggle to gain extra possessions off missed shots, but through two quarters of play, they've been suckered in to playing Indiana's game. More on that in question No. 2 in a moment.
For now, the physical play seems to have the Heat flustered, to a degree, and in position to have the game stolen from them. West and Hibbert have taken advantage of the deficiencies inside to score a combined 29 points.
How does Indiana slow the pace?
Despite turning the ball over too many times, the Pacers are putting together a solid effort on the defensive end and frustrating Miami enough that they haven't had their way in the open court. The Heat have just two fast break points through the first half, which is a great sign for Indiana.
Who wins the backcourt battle?
So far, Miami is winning the battle as Wade and Mario Chalmers are outscoring Lance Stephenson and George Hill. Both backcourts have combined to commit nine turnovers to contribute to the sloppiness of the first half.
Can they clean it up in the second?