2012 NBA Playoffs Recap, Day 27

Dwyane Wade and LeBron James weren’t interested in a Game 7. Their level of play made that quite clear. In defeat, the Pacers and Roy Hibbert learned some valuable lessons. (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

Heat advance to conference finals
We all saw this coming. The moment the Indiana Pacers choked away Game 4 their demise was imminent. Not only would Indiana need to win another game on the road, they’d have to do so against a lights-out LeBron James and a revived Dwyane Wade.

If you recall, Wade was awful in Game 3 and not much better in the 1st half of Game 4. It wasn’t until the Pacers let up, lost their identity, and flat out sucked that Wade found his groove. That groove continued through Thursday night’s Game 6 to the tune of 41 points on 17/25 shooting to go along with 10 rebounds. You have to punish teams while they’re down. A 3-1 hole may have spelt Miami’s doom. Instead, the Pacers let them off the hook, lost three straight as a result and now will be couch commentators for the remainder of the postseason like you and I.

The Game 6 strategy for the Heat was pretty obvious; get Wade and/or LeBron rolling and ride them as long as possible. Wade was unstoppable in getting to the rim and finishing, sometimes in spectacular fashion. It was the closest Wade looked to his 2006 Finals MVP self all season. The Pacers had no answers. Quietly, LeBron added a 28-6-7 and shot higher than 50% from the field for the third consecutive game. Think that’s impressive? Wade shot 57%, 59%, and 68% in the final three games while putting up 30, 28, and 41 points, respectively. Translation: Good luck, Philly/Boston.

The consensus as to why the Pacers lost Game 6 and ultimately the series was their inability to run the offense through Roy Hibbert or David West. West had a solid Game 6 but Hibbert again failed to post a double-double for the fourth time in five games. It’s easy to blame the coach or even Hibbert’s teammates for his lack of touches (took more than nine attempts only once [10] in those four games), but let’s not forget the true culprit; Roy Hibbert. Dominant centers demand the ball. They make it known they’re the best option. If you want to win, give me the ball. I can’t remember Hibbert ever calling for the ball or getting upset when the ball didn’t come. Sure, Frank Vogel should have made sure the ball went through the post more often than not, but Hibbert must learn that part of being a powerful post player is getting to your spot, demanding the ball and repeat.

Turnovers were also a killer Thursday night. 22 turnovers in an elimination game is a death sentence. If you watched the game, you can see the difference between the Pacers and a team like the San Antonio Spurs. Many of those errant passes that sailed out of bounds weren’t as horrible as they appeared. Unfortunately, the intended recipients failed to identify the open spot on the floor and get to it. A great basketball team doesn’t simply pass to the open man. They pass to the open spot on the floor trusting their teammates see the same opening and will be there to receive the pass. The Spurs do this with precision. Find the hole in the defense. Get there. Ball arrives simultaneously or shortly thereafter. It’s precision basketball executed by experts. The Pacers are still amateurs.

And finally, trying to intimidate the league’s top players was a bad idea from the start. The longer it went on, the angrier and more vengeful Wade and LeBron became. By the end of the series, I think it was pretty clear Wade and LeBron wanted to watch the Pacers suffer as much as they wanted to advance. This isn’t football. Toughness can only get you so far in basketball. Skill and precision will most often win out. The Pacers learned an important lesson; don’t rattle the cages unless you can survive the bite wounds.

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