The Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers kicked off the Eastern Conference Finals Sunday afternoon, with the Pacers winning 107-96. While there were some things that were aberrations in Game 1 for both teams, one thing that may cause a problem throughout the series is perimeter play.
It was surprising that these teams combined for 203 points Sunday afternoon, as the most they combined to score during the regular season was 191. But this is a trend that could continue throughout this series, as the Heat defense may struggle with the Pacers running a more perimeter orientated offense.
Coming into the Eastern Conference Finals, the Pacers were shooting 37.9 percent from three-point range, much higher than the 34.2 percent the Brooklyn Nets, the Heat’s second round opponent, shot throughout the series. While the Heat have shot even better from the perimeter at 38.7 percent throughout the postseason, their success is less likely to continue than the Pacers.
Even with the Nets shooting a poor percentage from three, the Heat have allowed opposing teams to shoot 38.1 percent from deep, fourth-worst of any team in the postseason. On the other hand, the Pacers have played defense on the perimeter extremely well, allowing teams to shoot only 32.9 percent throughout the postseason.
In Game 1, both of those trends played out exactly how they have throughout the postseason; the Heat shot only 6-of-23, 26.1 percent, compared to 8-of-19, 42.1 percent, for the Pacers.
For the Heat to keep up with the Pacers from the perimeter, they are going to need to step up the defensive effort out there. They cannot allow a player like George Hill, who has struggled with his three-point shot throughout the postseason, to gain confidence and knock down three-pointers like he did in Game 1. The Heat know that Paul George is going to get his, so locking down the supporting players like Hill is a must.
While it is hard to imagine Chris Bosh, Mario Chalmers and LeBron James combining to shoot 2-for-14 again from three-point range, it is not something you can be sure of with how well the Pacers defend the perimeter. A better course of action will be for the Heat to improve their perimeter defense, or this series will go in a much different direction than many people think.