Just one more game sits in the minds of many of the Miami Heat players going into what could be their last game before entering their fourth consecutive NBA Finals. Having already won game two in Indiana, Miami has the upper hand in the series, winning both at home and on the road. However, to close out the series tonight, the Heat must do what they did in game four to the Pacers, but also improve in some areas.
In the last game, Pacers center Roy Hibbert did not score a point. I credit the Heat’s defense, allowing Hibbert only four shots in the game. Nevertheless, if Miami can further limit his ability to score in the paint and provide a major source of offense for the Pacers, that leaves Indiana relying Paul George, Lance Stephenson and David West to have stellar performances to compete in the game.
As we have seen, every player has the potential to be inconsistent. Stephenson is one of them. In one game, he led the Pacers in scoring but in the last two games, his scoring and production has been limited to a minimum. If the Heat can continue to limit Hibbert’s offensive production and not allow Stephenson to get hot throughout the game, Miami can solely focus on how to deal with Paul George, David West and the bench players for Indiana.
Rebounding will always remain an issue for the Heat. Although losing the battle 37-34 ultimately led to a game four win, Miami cannot let this happen in game 5. Hibbert will come out in what could be the last game of the season looking to crash the boards on offense and defense. Last game, David West led the team with 12 of the Pacers 37 rebounds in game five. It is important for the Heat to win the rebound category. In addition to that, James should not be the leading rebounder for the Heat. It is evident Bosh faces a level of difficulty in rebounding against Hibbert and West in the paint, but he needs to have more than he had in game four if the Heat expect to close the series against the Pacers. With Bosh obtaining more rebounds, it will take a load off of James in addition to his other duties on the court.
James, Bosh and Wade combined for 72 of Miami’s 102 points in the last game. The three played exceptionally well, but they still need help. Ray Allen came alive in game three, Bosh in game four but Chalmers continues to remain quiet. I am waiting on a breakout game for Mario Chalmers. Obviously, I don’t expect him to score 25 or 30 points in game five, however, if he averages 12 to 15 points, it further takes a load off of the “Big Three”.
Free throws and bench play will also be crucial in the Heat winning game five. The Heat shot 88% (30-of-34) from the free throw line, which could be critical down the stretch late in the game. In series-deciding games, teams who shoot free throws particularly finish out on top. Thus, James and Wade must penetrate to the basket to get to the free throw line. Nevertheless, the other role players such as Allen, Bosh and Chalmers must convert on their free throw opportunities as well.
In game five, Miami’s bench contributed 29 points between five players. What might not seem as important, bench play is just as crucial as role players being productive. With good production coming from bench players, it gives the Heat an extra boost in terms of winning the game.