No matter what the media says, the Miami Heat are still the better team in the Eastern Conference Finals and should be considered the favorites. The main issues for the Heat have not been size and rebounding, like some analysts have accurately pointed out. Yes, those are weaknesses for the Heat, but those were the same weaknesses the Heat had when they beat the Indiana Pacers in 6 games last season without Chris Bosh.
While the Heat can basically concede the rebounding battle to the larger Pacers, they need to step up the other aspects of their game. This was simply not the case in Game Two, as this screenshot shows:
As the screenshot shows, the Heat lost the rebound battle by seven, but were still able to fire up seven more shots in the game. In reality, the Heat did not give up a disproportionate amount of offensive rebounds, only grabbing one less offensive rebound than the Pacers — but that is something the media is unlikely to point out.
Three bigger issues than the rebounding popped up from that screenshot that are bigger concerns for me going forward: Assists/Turnovers, Fast Break Points, and Scoring.
Over 55% of the team’s baskets in the regular season were assisted, but they only had 41% of their shots assisted on in Friday night’s loss. The Heat had as many assists as turnovers in the game. The Heat averages 23 assists a game during the regular season and just 14 turnovers. The turnovers being down from game one were a good sign, but the team needs to up the assist totals in game three.
Lebron on the game had three assists and five turnovers, two of which came late in the game and cost the Heat a chance to even the score. Those two turnovers will be over scrutinized due to point of the game which the occurred in, but the other three turnovers were just as costly.
In game one, the Heat had 24 assists and 20 turnovers. Game three will need to be the correct mixture of games one and two for the Heat to come out on top on the road.
Fast Break Points:
The Miami Heat have scored just 19 points on fast breaks this series. That is a trend that does not bode well for Miami as this series continues. With Roy Hibbert clogging the paint and Dwyane Wade still struggling with injuries, the best chance for the Heat to score is going to be playing a fast paced game.
After a monster game on Friday, the Heat realized they need to do a better job of taking Hibbert out of the game. The best way to do that would be to cause turnovers and pick up steals, something the Heat have done well since their coming together. Turnovers are also an issue the Pacers have struggled with, averaging close to 15 a game during the regular season.
With game three being played in Indiana, where the Heat went 0-2 this season, the team will need to pick up as many turnovers as they can and convert on fast break opportunities. The Heat need to force the Pacers to make closer to the 20 turnovers they had in game one than the 13 they had in game two.
In the regular season, the Miami Heat paced the NBA shooting almost 50% from the field and were second in three point shooting percentage, shooting close to 40%. So far this series, the Heat have shot 47% from the field and just 30% from three.
Ray Allen and Shane Battier have gone a combined 1-f0r-12 shooting from beyond the arc this series. Lebron James has played like superman, but none of that matters if these two do not knock the wide open shots they have been given this series. Heat will need one of these two to score in double figures to put pressure on the Pacers offense to score more points this series.
In addition to Allen and Battier needing to improve their shooting, the Heat need one of their other two starts to start playing second fiddle. Wade has been too passive this series, taking just 29 shots in the first two games. He has only gotten to the free throw line seven times this series, missing four of those shots. He needs to be more aggressive and look for his shot early and more often.
Chris Bosh needs to be more involved in the game plan from the offset. Like I mentioned above, Hibbert needs to be taken out of the game for the Heat to have their best shot of winning. To do that, the Heat need Bosh to attack Hibbert in the paint and draw him outside with his shooting from the deep.
Lastly, if there is one thing Lebron needs to improve on in this series, it would be his shot selection. While Lebron has shot a high percentage, he needs to be at the charity stripe more often than he shoots a three. So far this series, Lebron has shot one less three (13) than he has shot free throws (14).
After the game last night, all you read on Twitter that the Heat were lucky to not be down 2-0 right now. While that is true, the shoe fits the other foot as well. The Pacers are just a couple of plays away from being down 2-0 right now. The silver lining for the Heat is that the first two games have been played the way the Pacers have dictated. If the Heat can change that, they can steal a game or two in Indy and put the pressure back on the Pacer.
There is one last adjustment that I did not point out above. This adjustment needs to be made by me:
The Heat are 9-2 this postseason, 0-2 when I wear my Wade shirt. Think we all know what adjustment has to be made for game 3.
— Ehsan R. Kassim (@ehsank24) May 25, 2013
Promise not to wear that bad luck shirt again this postseason guys.