Miami’s league leading offense was having some major issues versus Indiana’s stingy defense, falling from atop the mountain to somewhere around league average. There are a lot of factors that go into this but generally the Heat were having a very difficult time getting the kind of efficient shots they are used to creating with ease, namely at the rim, from the free throw line, and from three.
The solution to this problem and the cracking of Indiana’s unbending defense seems so simple that it’s almost a little absurd, and yet was essentially the main catalyst behind the offensive explosion of game three. Post LeBron James up on the left block with Paul George guarding him, and let the best player in the world go to work.
In the last two games in this series combined, LeBron posted up a total of six times, and two of those were fade away jumpers (always a win for the defense). In this game LeBron posted up eleven times and it probably would have been more if the game was more competitive in the fourth.
For all of Paul George’s strengths as a defender (there are many) one of them does not happen to be the ability to defend a superhuman that is bigger than him in the post (there is actually no one capable of doing this so don’t take it to heart Paul). The Pacers are a team that takes pride in not helping, they usually have little need to, but it cost them big here as Paul George was left on an island versus this all night:
I could show you more clips but it would be unnecessary, just imagine that same play over and over again and you’ll get the idea. LeBron lowers his left shoulder and then spins right around George and to the hoop for an easy lay in. The most obvious solution to this mismatch is to send help immediately as soon as LeBron begins to establish post position on George, but look at Miami’s spacing here:
Help from anywhere on the court leads to an open shot. If Hibbert defends LeBron’s spin right, Birdman is open for a dunk, Battier is already open, and your two other options are leaving the best three point shooter ever at the top of the key or Norris Cole in the corner (although DJ Augustin really isn’t going to be much help anyway). This is what makes Miami so impossibly hard to beat (they have won 40 games out of their last 44), LeBron James is one of the best passers in the league out of the posts and the Heat trot out a parade of deadly three point shooters. Hell, their center is hitting 46 percent from three in the playoffs!
Indiana avoided the immediate help route at all costs, and instead chose to attack LeBron’s post ups in different way, and each time the Heat found ways to beat it. George tried fronting LeBron but was beaten by well timed backdoor cuts to the basket by James and good passing from the perimeter.
George also tried to play LeBron more physically, denying him position by attempting to manhandle him out of the post. LeBron’s strength makes this a strategy that is not only difficult to execute, but one that may exhaust George too early in the game (potential foul trouble may also warrant a disposal of this strategy). However the Heat even used this to their advantage, having LeBron use George’s attachment to him to help set a massive screen on David West to free Chris Bosh up in the pick and roll:
Indiana is going to have to figure out a way to stop these LeBron post ups if they have want to have a chance in staying in this series. The Pacers attempted stunting, having a defender quickly run over to help George in the post, and then recover back to their man. But they didn’t do it aggressively enough, fearing leaving their man for too long and giving LeBron an open man to pass to, as Hibbert does here:
They had some success in the fourth funneling LeBron deeper into the post where Hibbert can help without completely abandoning his man, and should think about employing that strategy earlier in game four.
Whatever the solution, Indiana better implement it into their defense quickly or LeBron James just may end this series by himself, like he has done so many times before.