The Miami Heat took a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference finals after a dominant Game 3. The Heat opted to use LeBron James in the post, and the Indiana Pacers had no answer for his presence down low. Indiana could not commit Roy Hibbert to double-team James because Miami's role players are such good three-point shooters. The Pacers need to do a better job of shifting as a defense and controlling passing lanes so they can effectively double James when he's in the post.
Udonis Haslem was 3-of-3 from the perimeter in the first quarter, and 5-of-6 shooting from mid-range overall. This denied Indiana's interior defenders the ability to park under the rim and help in the post.
Here, Hibbert is under the rim to protect against dribble penetration. While Hibbert reads the defense, Haslem sets up on the baseline. Mario Chalmers will pass the ball to James, who immediately swings it to the corner. By the time Hibbert recovers, it's too late and Haslem drains the open jumper.
Haslem's effectiveness set the stage for James to go to work in the post without Hibbert under the rim. Paul George has done a good job of battling James on defense on the perimeter, but can't physically match him in the post in isolation.
Here, James works around George in the post and seals him on the outside of the paint. Hibbert isn't near the post and stands just over midway between the rim and Haslem. Chris Bosh passes it to Haslem, who then finds James streaking to the rim for a layup.
The Pacers' defense collapses but it's too late.
What can Indiana do to help George when James is in the post? The Pacers have to double-team James, but need to carefully decide who doubles, how they double and where the rest of their defense is positioned once they do.
Here, James isolates George in the post. Hibbert doesn't move to help because he wants to stay within reach of Haslem. George Hill looks like he is going to help as he sinks into the paint, but doesn't double on James because he must stay with Chalmers on the perimeter.
James takes advantage of the single coverage and scores in the post. Hibbert does eventually rotate, but it's too late.
In the previous play, Hill could not help George because he had to stay with Chalmers on the perimeter. Here, the player who is in Hill's position is David West, who is defending Chris Bosh. When West sinks into the paint to help, Bosh slides to the top of the arc into an open passing lane.
James reads the double and passes to Bosh. Hibbert is not able to help because Haslem keeps him anchored near the rim. Now, Hill has to defend both Bosh and Chalmers on the perimeter. James has a clear passing lane to Bosh, who has plenty of distance from Hill. Bosh gets the ball and nails the three, making Indiana's defense pay for leaving the perimeter to help in the post.
This is another example of Indiana's defense needing to rotate and adjust by controlling the passing lanes when they double the post. Hill should have rotated between Bosh and James. When Hill shifts, Stephenson needs to as well to defend the "long" pass to either Chalmers or Wade.
The Pacers' defense was unprepared for James' work in the post. Indiana couldn't stop him in single coverage, they didn't send help intelligently and they didn't play the passing lanes properly. Indiana should be better prepared to handle James after watching him control Game 3 from the post.
This series has featured adjustments from both teams. Frank Vogel needs his players to be ready to make multiple defensive rotations so the Pacers can successfully defend James when he's in the low post, or Miami will continue sending the Most Valuable Player to the block.