The Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers live in different worlds. With a lineup constructed around three stars worth nearly $300 million, Miami is the ultimate NBA team. The Indiana Pacers have a real college feel. They’ve got a coach who looks like a grad student and they’ve developed their roster with a mid-major philosophy.
After Game 2, the Indiana Pacers were being framed as “The Paul George and Friends Show.” His low-five with LeBron James at the end of the third frame on Friday night, was his impromptu knighting ceremony. Indiana’s come-up wasn’t supposed to begin until Paul George was ready to seize the East Conference crown from LeBron James’ head.
In two games on Indiana’s home floor, George has been a relative non-factor scoring the basketball. Of all five starters, George scored the fewest on Tuesday night. George may have been anointed too soon, but an unlikely source kept Indiana from heading to the guillotine. Indiana’s ensemble cast picked up the slack around him.
Indiana’s Game 4 was loosely reminiscent of A Different World, after Lisa Bonet was written off the series. The show was designed as a Cosby spinoff vehicle for Bonet, but instead of cancelling it, the supporting casts’ storylines gained more prominence and the revamped series took off from there.
That’s essentially what Indiana’s role players did to rebound from their Game 3 shellacking. George is still integral to Indiana winning this series, but with the home crowd behind them, Indiana’s role players played focused and their starting five operated with the smooth efficiency of a souped up Ferrari.
Hibbert has impacted this entire series and Game 4 was no different. To rebound from a Game 4 loss, the Pacers pushed James out the paint and David West supplemented Hibbert with a modest 14 points and 12 rebounds. He also, via his physicality, helped cause James to foul out.
After contributing bricks through the first three games of this series, Lance Stephenson aggressively looked for his own shot, found his rhythm and gave Miami another scoring option to be concerned about. George Hill may fear for his life with James swatting his shots, but he had a sound game, finishing with 19 and a pivotal loose ball late in the fourth quarter.
Historically, role players are exponentially better at home. The Pacers bounced back from the Heat’s offensive onslaught and clamped down defensively, but on the road, Vogel can’t expect the Pacers to hoist George’s carcass over their shoulders offensively and take a 3-2 series lead. It’s on George to carry them once they’re back in Miami for Game 5.