The Pacers were facing an uphill battle right from the start, and yet they played valiantly, taking a 48-42 lead at the half against the heavily favored Heat team featuring three-time MVP Lebron James (who picked up his award before the game).
Even with that 6-point lead and an ab injury to Chis Bosh, I knew the Pacers were going to have a hard time winning game 1 because Lebron and Wade were going to get buckets down the stretch, whereas for the Pacers every point was going to be a struggle. I had hoped that the Pacers would turn in one of their trademark third quarters and blow the game wide open, giving them enough of a cushion in the fourth to withstand the inevitable Heat onslaught, but instead it was Miami that clawed their way back, tying the game at 70 apiece heading in the final 12 minutes.
I knew then game 1 was over, and sure enough, the Heat turned it into a 95-86 victory. Not an embarrassment by any means, but the Pacers have to know they probably just gave up their best chance of winning this series.
As a team, they didn’t play particularly well. They got into foul trouble and allowed the Heat offense to get going in the second half. Hibbert had 17 and 11 and West had 17 and 12 on identical shooting numbers (6-12 FGs, 5-6 FTs), while Collison and Hill had 10 each.
The big story, of course, was Danny Granger’s 7 points on 1-10 shooting. Everyone knew this was going to be a tough series for Granger because he was going up against Lebron. Apparently, after the game Vogel apologized for not getting Granger more involved in the offense. But he also said it was going to be hard for Granger to have a high scoring series because guarding Lebron for 38 minutes a game was going to take too much out of him.
I agree with both, and it’s up to Granger to realize that he doesn’t need to be the number one option on offense this series. Sometimes I still wonder whether he gets that he has better scoring options available on the team and that he doesn’t have to chuck up some many shots. Games like these tend to affirm the view that he doesn’t. On the other hand, for the Pacers to have a shot at winning, Granger does need to give the Pacers more points — and that means picking his spots better, not forcing it like he has been. Granger has been just as culpable as his teammates in not making in the extra pass. The Pacers gave up a ton of open shots because guys were looking to get their own. And that’s just not playing to one of the team’s only advantages against the Heat — depth.
The truth is, Vogel needs to take some flak for the way this game turned out. Despite all the film viewing sessions it still doesn’t seem like he knows how to exploit mismatches and utilize the man with the hot hand. Everyone on the team needs to learn from the failures of game 1 and play better next time. It might not lead to a win, but at least we can say they did everything they could.
PS: Vogel’s comments about the Heat flopping didn’t do a whole lot of good (and yes, that includes the ludicrous $15,000 fine), with the Pacers sending the Heat to the line 38 times. David Stern said he would have fined Vogel more than the league office did, but then admitted that flopping was a “legitimate concern.” Does that mean he is going to get fined as well?