The Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers played a very fun game to watch last night. The Heat won in overtime on a LeBron James layup at the buzzer. It was the final big play in a game that was chocked full of them. There are many different angles and thoughts that I could go with, but here are a few quick ones:
Protect The Rim: There already has been (and will be until Game 2) much made about Roy Hibbert being on the bench at the end of the game. I am in strong support of the side that thinks he should have been in. As a coach, you want to put your team in the best position to finish a close game. Having a person who can protect the rim and alter shots confined to the bench is not doing that. People are saying that Vogel was concerned that Hibbert could not guard Bosh and that is why he sat him down. To me, that is a coach overanalyzing things and freezing up in the clutch. In that situation, I’ll take Bosh ten times out of ten shooting a pick and pop jumper to win the game before I let the best player in the world get the ball with a chance to drive. Did Paul George gamble on the last play? Sure he did. However, if you have Hibbert on the floor that last shot may have been more difficult. I am not a fan of being a “hindsight is 20/20” coach, but even watching it in the moment, I was stunned that Hibbert was on the bench. I would be willing to bet that will not happen again this series.
“Birdman, Birdman!!!”- Anyone who watches “Inside the NBA” on TNT has heard this goofy, yet hilarious proclamation during any highlight involving Chris Andersen. While playing 18 minutes, he gave the crew plenty of opportunities to yell that out. He had 16 points on 7-7 shooting from the field. He added five rebounds, three blocks, and the hustle plays that he is known for. It was a very impressive performance for him and confirmation that the Heat made a good move picking him up in January. He has been the perfect dose of energy off the bench and given the Heat flexibility in the front court. If he can continue this play, the Heat will be in good shape to win this series and finish the job in the Finals.
By George- Paul George made his first All-Star game appearance this season, won the NBA’s Most Improved Player award and has played well in the playoffs leading up to the Conference Finals, yet Game 1 was the first time many casual observers have seen him play. He had a sub-par first half, only scoring two points. In the second half and overtime, he introduced himself to the world with a special 25-point performance. He scored in a variety of ways and led a balanced effort to stay in the game. In the final seconds, he threw a pass to one of his teammates on the bench that at the time seemed to be a backbreaking turnover. However, after Ray Allen shockingly missed two free throws, George knocked down a long three-pointer to tie the game with .7 left on the clock, sending the game to OT. At the end of OT, he knocked down three free throws to give the Pacers a one point lead with 2.2 seconds left.
At this point, he made the biggest mistake of his night (a close second being the outfit he wore to the game) and gambled on the in-bounds pass. That led to LeBron getting to the basket for the game-winning shot. It will be interesting to see how he comes out in Game 2. He is only in his third year and seems to have ice-water in his veins, so I am looking forward to seeing how he responds to giving up the game-winning basket. They say that reputations and legacies are made in the playoffs. Paul George is a young man who has an opportunity to be great, and this series is his introduction to the casual fan. Enjoy, because you are watching a guy who will help carry the league over the next decade.
There are a few thoughts from Game 1. I did not even mention LeBron James and his triple double or Dwyane Wade and his solid performance on a knee that is giving him problems. David West, Roy Hibbert, and Tyler Hansborough played bully ball and did what they wanted to the Heat’s interior players. It was a fun game to watch, with many plot-twists and turns. I believe I can speak for every NBA fan and say that I am down for six more of those. Is it time for Game 2 to tip yet?
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