The Indiana Pacers have everyone baffled at this point in the 2014 NBA playoffs. Prior to their Eastern Conference Finals showdown with the Miami Heat, the Pacers looked horrible over the last few months. Indiana had built their team to beat the Miami Heat, focusing on strong defense and size. And as the wheels were coming off, everyone looked for someone to blame.
The Indiana Pacers player who received the most blame through it all was Roy Hibbert. Honestly, Hibbert deserved a lot of the criticism. The Pacers big man barely showed up for two rounds, leaving many to question whether or not he should be benched. There were a few suggestions that George Hill, Indiana’s starting point guard, deserved some blame as well. Those voices were drowned out by all the noise over Roy Hibbert’s disappearing act.
After game one of the Pacers and Heat series, it seemed Indiana had figured out a way to right the ship. Hibbert started playing like the Heat destroyer from the 2013 NBA playoffs. The Pacers were playing with heart and outstanding defense. The 2014 Eastern Conference Finals’ Pacers looked like the team that had been built to beat the Miami Heat.
Unfortunately, the series is not going according to plan for the Pacers. Following a tough game two loss to the Heat, the Pacers came out in the first quarter of game three and dominated the Miami Heat. Then the Pacers disappeared again. David West and Hibbert combined for seventeen points in the first quarter and looked poised to hammer the Heat all game long. The duo would only make five more baskets the rest of the game and Ray Allen eventually sunk the Pacers in the fourth quarter. What happened?
The answer is George Hill. Although the Pacers point guard is an above average defender at his position in the NBA, he is offensively challenged. Last season, when the Pacers had a stronger bench, Hill could be spelled by D.J. Augustin. Augustin is a quality, traditional back up point guard. Basically, the Pacers made it work by having two above average back up point guards sharing minutes. Now, C.J. Watson is the back up point guard. Watson is more of a scoring point guard and not a very good one at that.
All of the pressure to facilitate the offense falls on George Hill as the starter. Hill averaged 3.5 assists per game this season and often plays off the ball, allowing Lance Stephenson and Paul George to do their work. The result for the Indiana Pacers is a clogged offense that requires way too much isolation. The Pacers, the best team in the East this season, finished 27th in the NBA in assists per game. They simply do not move the ball well. Why? Because they do not have a point guard capable of creating the kind of offense they need to get it to their big men down low.
Most likely the Indiana Pacers will lose this series to the Miami Heat because they do not have enough offensive options. Their offense is severely limited because they do not have a point guard who can create opportunities for everyone else. If the Indiana Pacers want to make it to the NBA finals, they should look to invest in a point guard this offseason. Otherwise, the Pacers have probably gone as far at they can go.
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