MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Miami Heat are going to have quite a challenge in front of them from the opening tip of Game 4 in the Eastern Conference Finals. Miami must find a way to once again play a near perfect half against the defensive-minded Indiana Pacers.
In Game 3, Miami scored 70 points in the first half and shot better than 60 percent from the field en route to a 114-96 demolition of one of the league’s toughest defenses. The win put Miami up 2-1 over the Pacers and a win Tuesday would give the Heat a commanding 3-1 series lead.
But that’s not going to be easy as Indiana has been the toughest team Miami has played all season in the Eastern Conference. Indiana also knows that to beat Miami, it all starts with at least trying to contain NBA MVP LeBron James.
“We’ve got to do a better job on the ball, we’ve got to be more active on our helps and we’ve got to double (LeBron James) more,” Vogel said before players watched the ugly reminders on tape. “We’re not going to double him every time he touches the ball, but we’ll look at some things and try to break his rhythm.”
LeBron and his Heat teammates took the fight right to the Pacers’ strength on the inside in Game 3. James constantly went to his nearly impossible-to-stop post game against Indiana and the Pacers are likely to focus on stopping that element of his game on Tuesday.
“I’m much better than I was two or three years ago,” James said Monday when asked about playing the post. “I’ve still got a lot of things to improve, but I could work down there all game now. That’s something I probably couldn’t have done two years ago.”
That will turn the attention to the Heat’s shooters like Ray Allen and Shane Battier who have both struggled from the field in the playoffs. When James is double-teamed, his elite passing skills usually mean someone will be getting an open look at the basket. If those looks come for Allen, Battier, Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole, they have to hit their shots.
The Pacers will have to find help for small forward Paul George when he is being posted up by LeBron in Game 4. George, who has played excellent defense against LeBron, had virtually no chance at stopping James in the post.
That means the focus will turn to double-teams and getting more help defense from the Pacers’ big men David West and Roy Hibbert.
“I’ve just got to battle and push him out a little further,” George said. “He’s tough. He’s obviously gifted physically and he’s strong, so it’s tough but it’s something I’ve got to learn.”
Still, the heavy focus on James by Indiana runs the risk of forgetting about Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Wade has shown no effects from his knee injury and as Indiana learned last year, he’s still capable of taking over a game if needed.
Bosh will have the unenviable task of once again throwing his body around with the 7’2” Hibbert. Bosh’s job on the offensive end of the floor will be to hit open jump shots early to bring Hibbert out from under the basket.
By bringing Hibbert out, it should open up easier paths to the basket for LeBron and Wade, theoretically at least. But Miami has to hit their mid-range jumpers if they are to once again run away from the Pacers in Game 4.
Tip-off for Game 4 is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. and the game can be seen on TNT.
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