MIAMI (CBSMiami) – As soon as NBA MVP LeBron James hit the game winning layup in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, analysts and commentators began blasting away at Indiana Pacers head coach Frank Vogel for not having center Roy Hibbert on the court at the end of the game.
However, even if Hibbert had been on the court it likely wouldn’t have made any difference in the final outcome of the game.
That was the message TNT NBA analyst Charles Barkley had for people after the game and it was echoed Thursday morning by NBA champion Bruce Bowen on ESPN Radio. The basic message was simple, Hibbert doesn’t have the speed or athleticism to get there to stop LeBron from getting to the basket.
Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra designed arguably the perfect play for LeBron and the Heat executed the play to perfection. Right before LeBron flashed to the top of the key to get the ball, Chris Bosh began to move slightly to the outside to draw his defender away from the basket.
Indiana had to respect Bosh’s ability to either hit a mid-range jump shot or flash to the basket for a pass from LeBron. That’s why Bosh’s defender moved out from the basket.
However, the two parts that made the play work were LeBron’s speed to the basket and Pacers forward Paul George overcommitting to one side allowing LeBron to go right past him to the basket.
Still, some said having Hibbert on the floor would have altered LeBron’s plan going to the basket. But, Indiana head coach Frank Vogel played the odds the way the season has broken down for the Pacers against the Heat.
During the regular season, when Hibbert was on the court, Miami hit approximately 50 percent of its shots in the paint versus just 40 percent when Hibbert was off the court. Plus, in the mid-range area, Miami struggled much more with Hibbert off the court, 27 percent, than when he was on the court, 47 percent.
In Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Indiana gave Miami everything they could handle and the Heat allowed the Pacers to stay in the game with horrendous free throw shooting. Still, in the end when it counted most, the Heat and Coach Spoelstra simply outexecuted Indiana.
It’s a great start to a series that will test Miami’s ability to not only win the Eastern Conference, but also how the Heat can match up against the likely Western Conference champion San Antonio Spurs.
Game 2 is set for Friday night at the AmericanAirlines Arena.