After sputtering in an awful Game 1 performance, the Miami Heat have bounced back to thoroughly dominate the Indiana Pacers in the last three games of the Eastern Conference Finals and take a commanding 3-1 series lead. The defending champs have the opportunity to close out this series tonight in Indiana and potentially get a whole week of rest before the NBA Finals begin. Outside of the Pacers being extremely hungry and playing with their proverbial backs against the wall, the Heat will undoubtedly have a difficult time closing out this series in Indiana because of the absence of two star second unit players: Ray Allen and Chris Andersen.
Both Allen and Andersen have been exquisite coming off the bench for the Heat this postseason, averaging 7.5 points and 4.8 rebounds while shooting a blistering 53 percent from the field. What isn’t shown on the stat sheet is what these individual players are bringing to the second unit in terms of both offense and defense. Allen has the ability to wear down the opposing team’s defense by consistently running around the arc, and he is one of the second unit’s most lethal three-point shooters. Andersen, on the other hand, brings copious amounts of energy to the second unit and is the Heat’s second-highest rebounder (outside of LeBron James) and top shot blocker.
Based on these few stats alone, it is easy to see why the Heat will sorely miss both Andersen and Allen in Game 5. The lack of frontcourt depth (Andersen) and outside shooting (Allen) off the bench could be the key for the Pacers to win a crucial Game 5 at home, bringing the series back to Miami for Game 6. The Heat’s Big Three have done the bulk of the work in terms of putting this series away, but it has been the production of the bench that’s held everything together. Without Allen and Andersen in Game 5, the Heat will need more players to step up from off the bench and produce; otherwise, this series is definitely headed back to Miami.