The Indiana Pacers had second-year guard Lance Stephenson, who is seen as a player with much potential because of his pure scoring ability, wearing a red jersey in practice on Friday to simulate the play of Dwyane Wade. Stevenson fit the mold well, almost impersonating the Heat superstar a little too much for Pacers Head Coach Frank Vogel's comfort on the way he was able to score against the Pacers defense.
Unfortunately for Indiana though, nobody can simulate the play of a 6"8', 250 pound behemoth of a man that is stronger, faster, and virtually play better than anybody on the court. Not to mention, one that is going to win his third Most Valuable Player Award as Lebron James will receive this weekend.
But James' offense, who averaged 27.1 points per game in the regular season along with a career high in field goal percentage with 53.1%, may not be his biggest threat to the Pacers squad. Lebron's ability to shut-down virtually any position with his quickness and brute strength, as he has shown he can handle anybody from Derrick Rose to Tyson Chandler, may be Indiana's biggest obstacle.
"He guards everyone," said Pacers forward Danny Granger. "He's going to guard me, and then he goes to the four. He'll be matched up on myself, and (David) West a lot, and he is just so versatile defensively that it allows them to play all over the court. I just think that is one of their biggest advantages, how versatile he is defensively."
James superb output has led to him finishing with the top overall plus/minus outputs in the entire NBA with +474 (Tony Parker of San Antonio finished with +421) and also is the key to jumpstarting Miami's transition offense. Quite frankly, James is practically the basketball equivalent to what NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders was as a shutdown quarterback. However, Indiana Pacers Head Coach Frank Vogel feels as if the Pacers might be able to use James ability to guard anyone to their advantage.
"He can guard point guards," said Vogel with a smile on his face. "He can guard them and shut them down. He can guard power forwards and shut them down. I understand that, as he is as good as there is on the defensive end. There is no other way to slice it, it is going to be a big challenge. One of the things about David West is, and I'm sure we'll go to it, he is a bruising force on the inside. He's not just a finesse scorer, so if they want to have Lebron guard David West, and have him pound with him the entire series, maybe that will impact him on the other end. Obviously we aren't going to keep going to it if it's not working, but we will see how it goes."
But the Pacers know that sharing the basketball across the court will be key to avoiding James tough defense, which has only allowed 0.574 points per possession (PPP) when opponents isolate against him
"People always ask who our go-to guy is, and I say our go-to guy is the open man," said Vogel.
"We have got to have better ball movement in this series than we have the entire year. They are a great defensive team. They guard one-on-one as well as any team in the NBA. If we play isolation basketball against these guys, we are probably going to struggle. We have to let ball movement be our friend and make sure we get the ball to the second side."
Pacers hope to take advantage of Miami's lack of size in post-players
With the Miami Heat starting Chris Bosh (6"11', 211 pounds) and Udonish Haslem (6"8', 230 pounds) in the post, it is safe to say outside of Lebron James that the Pacers will have a size advantage down low with Roy Hibbert (7"2', 278 pounds) and David West (2"9, 240 pounds).
It is a similar situation Indiana faced in round one, and hope to take advantage of once again.
"It is the same type of deal as last series," said Vogel, referencing how Orlando had to depend on a smaller line-up with Glenn Davis as it's big man in round one.
"Just because somebody like Haslem has a size disadvantage with Roy doesn't necessarily mean that is a dramatic mismatch for us. He is a terrific low-post defender, as is Bosh. But we have had success with Roy and David and our power-post game all year against all defenders, so we are going to go to that."
Vogel mention that if the Heat decide to double-team Hibbert he strongly believes it could open up the three-ball for the Pacers. But on the defensive side Pacers forward David West understands how difficult it will be to contain quicker forwards like Bosh, who instead of playing down-low prefers to pick his spots with his mid-range game.
"They pose a problem because both of those guys can shoot 17-18 feet," said West. "So we are always worried about that in terms of getting Roy away from the basket. But we are going to defend them just the same in terms of everyone else with their bigs that can shoot. We need to just limit their opportunities when they try to crawl into their space."
In four contests against Indiana has been able to contain Bosh to an extent, keeping him to 15.5 points per game.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times