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2014 NBA East Conference Finals: Indiana Pacers defeat Miami Heat to take Game 1

Prior to the Conference Finals, the road teams had a record of 34 wins and 38 losses these Playoffs. That’s the best winning percentage for road teams in the history of the post-season. However, in both the East and West the top two teams facing off for a spot in the NBA Finals are still the teams seeded 1 and 2.

Here’s a recap of the first of the two Conference Finals which was played out on Sunday night:

(1) Indiana Pacers vs (2) Miami Heat (Indiana won 107-96 and lead series 1-0)

Pacers took care of business in Game 1.

‘Poised’ would be the best way to describe the Pacers’ performance in Game 1 of their rematch from last season’s Conference Finals with the Heat. Having come a long way from facing elimination in Game 6 of the first round against the Atlanta Hawks, the Pacers stepped up the level of their play when it mattered the most to grab a statement victory over their rivals. They made the most of their match-up advantage to seize control of the series early.

The Heat’s motivation and determination to complete a three-peat was not tested by either of their earlier opponents (Charlotte Bobcats and Brooklyn Nets), but the Pacers were taken to Game 7 in the first round and Game 6 in the second round. So despite being the first seed, the Pacers were entering this series just like last year – as underdogs; only this time around, if the series gets pushed to the limit, the final game will be played in the underdog’s backyard.

For the Pacers it was always going to be their offence which was going to be the key in this series and they settled that debate early with a balanced attack, shooting 52% from the field and 42 from three point land as a team. Having the lead for the entire game, each of the Pacers’ starters along with C.J. Watson off the bench had double digit points and notable contributions in other categories, which prevented the Heat from taking control on either end of the floor.

Paul George started slow as he found his team-mates for his 7 assists even before the start of the fourth quarter, but finished the game leading the team in scoring with 24 points on 7 of 13 shooting and 3 of 6 from beyond the arc. Lance Stephenson had an efficient shooting night as well in his productive outing of 17 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists. Veteran forward David West’s 19 points and 7 rebounds on 8 of 11 shooting from the field were overshadowed by his starting center Roy Hibbert, whose first impression in this series has been positive.

Hibbert, who received a lot of touches in the post, had a near double double with 19 points and 9 rebounds. Although his positive energy and healthy activity on the floor cannot completely be explained by his box score, this performance would do a lot of good to his self confidence for the coming games in the series. George Hill’s 15 points were crucial to Indiana’s good start in Game 1 as he hit all of his 3 three pointers in the first quarters.

Highlights of how George and Stephenson led the Pacers to victory:

http://youtu.be/yN4IOZEqYlo

107 is the most the Pacers have scored in these Playoffs and at the same time this game was the first time the Heat conceded so many this post-season. Playing against a hungry, competitive team like the Pacers, the Heat were tested for the first time these Playoffs, having lost only one in the previous two rounds. The Pacers must expect the Heat to arrive hungrier and more aggressive in Game 2 and be ready to face the challenge as the Heat have ended up winning every series where they have lost Game 1 on the road in the Big 3 era.

“It’s a good start to the series but it’s just a good start, that’s all it is. We’ve got to expect a great fight in Game 2.” 
Pacers Head Coach Frank Vogel

Chris Bosh’s struggles on both ends of the floor is a huge concern for the Heat.

Any player or coach would agree that every game in the Playoffs takes its own shape and many a times doesn’t depend on the results of the previous games in the series. How well the Heat execute their adjustments will determine whether they go home two games down or with the split.

We all know the ferocious defence that the Heat are capable of, but we haven’t witnessed many stretches in any game this post-season which can prove that they can steal a game with their defence even against the league’s best. There are some major adjustments that Head Coach Erik Spoelstra would have to make in order to not only keep the Heat alive in this series but also be competitive.

Chris Bosh’s struggles this game on both ends of the floor are a serious concern for the Heat as his is the only match-up which would give the Heat the advantage. In their small line-up Bosh takes the 5 spot, and his consistent outside shooting even from three point range could move Hibbert away from the paint, the place he makes the most damage. However in this game Bosh finished with only 9 points on 4 of 12 shooting and 0 of 5 from long range along with just 2 rebounds to cap off a disappointing night for him.

Dwyane Wade (27 points on 12-18 shooting) and LeBron James (25 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals) had spurts of offence every now and then leading Heat with a 8-0 run or a 9-0 run, but the Pacers had an answer for every mini-run made by their opponents and with good defensive possessions, made sure the Heat never had any sustained momentum.

The Pacers must keep up this solid level of play throughout the series if they want to win it while for the Heat it’s one game at a time right now with a lot of adjustments to be made for Game 2.

James’ alley-oop dunk leads the top 5 plays of the night:

http://youtu.be/BDzv2v0cY90
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