The Eastern Conference Finals Has Become Battle Of Inches and IQ

2013 NBA Playoffs
2013 NBA Playoffs
May 28 2013 Indianapolis IN USA Miami Heat center Chris Andersen 11 guards Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert 55 in game four of the Eastern Conference finals of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse Mandatory Credit Brian Spurlock USA TODAY Sports

Yes, it must be said that all NBA Playoffs games are defined by inches and the collective IQ of the individuals involved. But that longstanding conflict feels intensified in a Miami-Indiana series that has now become a best of three. Indy can taste an upset on the horizon and you better believe that LeBron doesn’t want to go down at this point, doing so might reopen questions of his legitimacy. So as the room for error constricts, and the window of opportunity also closes, both sides of the Eastern Conference Finals will turn to what has brought them success to this point. It’s mostly come down to size and the gameplans used to exploit it favorably.

Take Roy Hibbert. He’s carving up the Heat like lobsters at a South Beach seafood bar. In the Big Three era, he’s the only player other than Dirk Nowitzki to post three consecutive playoff games of 20 and 10 on Miami. With his size and newfound mobility, the Heat are having a hard time figuring out who can guard him. There’s talk that they might put LeBron on Roy to bother him with strength but that feels like a desperate measure. In fact, Hibbert might get more touches as a result.

So far, he’s posted 61 shot attempts, or 15.25 per game, and he’s made them at a better rate than LeBron is making his, or at 54.1%. At 7-foot-2, he would have an easy time shooting his butter hooks over James if given the right floor positioning. And this is where the IQ comes in. Indiana has figured out how to provide that for Hibbert by using decoys that force Hibbert’s man toward one side of the court. As the ball swings in the opposite direction, the big man is then able to position himself in front of his defender.

With James on him, Hibbert would have less length to get past. But he would have more options at his disposal. With no LeBron patrolling the perimeter, Hibbert could then pass off the ball to Indiana’s supreme trio of swingmen in George, Stephenson and Hill. If Hibbert chooses to shoot over LeBron and misses, that removes a big body to contest rebounds with against a very good rebounding Indiana team. And Indiana is already killing Miami on that front. The ability to attack LeBron with Hibbert could also spell foul trouble situations for the MVP, which as was seen in Game 4, is never a good thing.

Inches and IQ have also swung in Miami’s favor.

With LeBron directing from his cushy postup seat, Indiana’s size became a liability in Game 3. James scored an effective 14 points on 5-for-9 shooting with his back to the basket. Paul George is too small and lean to stop him, and it removes Hibbert from the defensive equation. Roy has been able to greatly affect LeBron’s shot selection in the paint, but with LeBron on a post-up Hibbert has a harder time of impeding James. On a post-up, James can pass or shoot before Indiana converges on him, and if he does pass, Hibbert might be forced to run out to close on a shooter. Knowing this, and knowing that Udonis Haslem was having a hard time amongst the Indy trees, the Heat had him shooting jumpers from the elbow.

Haslem posted 17 points and the Heat won by 18.

How did Indiana respond? Surprisingly by scoring like they’ve never scored before. But once again, the matter of inches was involved.

The Pacers are pounding the boards, and they secured 56% of Game 4’s offensive rebounds. Concerned by the height disadvantage, Spoelstra has shied away from his small ball lineups and has experimented with one that includes Chris Bosh and Chris Andersen. IQ once again trying to exploit inches, one way or another.

The concern for Miami is that Indiana will always be the bigger team, and until now, they’ve proven to have plenty of brains as well.

author avatar
Bogar Alonso
Bogar Alonso is a dedicated student of the hardwood, soccer pitch, boxing ring, and tennis court. He is a regular NBA contributor to XN Sports. His work, involving more than just sports, has appeared on The Creators Project, A&E Networks, XXL Magazine, and others. Follow Bogar on Twitter @blacktiles