They held a 44-40 lead in the contest at halftime as their defense seemed to be frustrating the Heat, and they were using their size advantage in the interior to their benefit. That’s when LeBron James exploded in the third quarter and showed why he’s the best player in the NBA.
LeBron’s dominant performance in the second half was the predominant narrative of the Heat’s Game 5 win that gave Miami the 3-2 lead in the series. There’s no question that James’ heroics deserved to be recognized. However, LeBron’s game overshadowed a real issue for the Pacers in that their role players, Lance Stephenson and George Hill in particular, failed to give Indiana much production at all.
Hill played 37 minutes in Game 5 despite sitting out for an extended time in the third quarter due to foul trouble. However, he managed only one point on 0-of-4 shooting and added just four assists while turning the ball over three times. He did add three steals, but that didn’t offset his offensive ineffectiveness.
Stephenson wasn’t much better as he played 28 minutes before fouling out and scoring just four points on 2-of-7 shooting and adding only two assists and three rebounds, while turning it over three times as well.
The Pacers enjoyed a good game from their frontcourt with David West, Paul George and Roy Hibbert combining for 66 points and 25 rebounds on 26-of-49 shooting, but their lack of production from role players really didn’t help them. Stephenson struggled to get off clean looks and Hill seemed to lack aggressiveness as he wasn’t trying to penetrate and get to the rim.
It’s a pretty common thing in the league for role players to perform better at home than they do on the road, and Hill and Stephenson haven’t been exceptions to that rule in the postseason.
In eight home games, Hill is averaging 18.5 points, four assists and 3.9 rebounds per game while shooting 46.3 percent from the floor and 42.9 percent from three. In the eight road games that he’s played, he’s put up just 10.8 points, 4.8 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game on 33.7 percent shooting from the floor and 22.9 percent shooting from distance. He’s also averaging a full turnover more per game on the road in the playoffs.
The difference in Stephenson’s home and road numbers is pretty staggering as well. In eight home games, he’s averaged 12.3 points, 2.6 assists and 6.3 rebounds per game on 48.7 percent shooting and 33.3 percent 3-point shooting. In nine road games, Stephenson has put up just 7.4 points, 3.7 assists and 8.4 rebounds on 32.9 percent shooting and 20.7 percent 3-point shooting.
As the series heads to Indianapolis for Game 6, the Pacers need to get solid offensive production from Hill and Stephenson. There’s no doubt that Indiana has a distinct advantage in the post, but that advantage is negated if their role players aren’t giving them anything.
If Hill and Stephenson stay true to form and play well at home for Game 6, expect a Game 7 to be going down on Monday. If they come out and play like they did in Game 5, though, we will likely have to start waiting for the Finals between the Heat and San Antonio Spurs to begin.