I'm going through game-by-game using the play-by-play to analyze when games were lost or went out of control. For purposes of this discussion, I'm going to define "starters" as requiring at least 3 starters on the floor, so LBJ+DWade "abusing" Danny + bench doesn't count.
Here's game 1, won by Miami 95-86
Starters PG, DG, GH, RH, DW. Led 13-6 until Barbosa came in, then still leading 19-14 when Lou in for Roy and Tyler in for West. In next 3 minutes Miami takes lead and ends first quarter down by 3.
Start second quarter with Pacers bench, Pacers lead 36-30 when starters come back in. Pacers lead 46-38 when Hill goes back out, 47-39 when DG and PG go out (1:15 left in half). Pacers lead at half 48-42.
Second half starts with starters. Miami ties 52-52. Hill goes out with 5 fouls, Roy goes out with 4 fouls. Pacers regain lead but go back down 62-61 with 4:29 left in the 3rd. Pacers leading 70-68 when West and PG go out with 42 seconds left in 3rd (OK, 69-68 but DG at the FT line so I'll count the next point as starters). Miami ties it at end of 3rd.
Fourth quarter starts with bench (Collison/Hans/Barbosa plus DG & West). Miami goes up 78-72 in first 3:10 of the quarter. PG & Roy back in for DG & Tyler, so call this now the starters (West, PG, Roy plus DC & Barbosa). Hill & DG back in by 7:28 (score Miami 82-75). Starters get it to within 1 at 4:51 remaining (86-85) but fall back to down 4 by 2 minutes left. PG fouls out, giving LBJ FTs, and the rest is missing shots down the stretch while Miami adds unneeded points on FTs and a jumper.
VERDICT: The bench lost the lead at the beginning of the 4th, and the starters were unable to get it back. The lead was not lost to LBJ "abusing" anyone. The game stays even except for that one run by Miami that the starters weren't able to overcome. I'd be willing to call this one a toss-up since the starters failed to hit their shots in the last 2 minutes, but there was certainly no "abuse" of the starters by LBJ involved, and if the bench doesn't let the Heat go on that run then the starters may come out fine. In this case, the bench is on the floor because of foul trouble, so here is a game where an improved bench would have helped a lot.
Next game in a later response.
I'm going to skip over the Pacer wins, since this discussion is about how we could have prevented the losses.
Game 3, Heat win 101-93
Starters GH, RH, DG, DW, PG. Pacers up 9-2 when West picks up a second foul and goes out. Battier and Chalmers keep Miami in it by hitting 3 point shots. Pacers lead 21-13 with 3:19 in the quarter when PG and GH go out (now bench). Pacers lead at end of first, 25-18.
Second quarter starts with total bench (Amundson, Jones, Barbosa, Hans, Collison). DG & DW come back in with 8:49 left with score 29-26 (Haslem, Wade, LBJ + FTs from LBJ). Miami takes lead briefly, Pacers up 32-30 when Hibbert comes back in (now starters). West and Hill will go out before half but using the 3 rule starters are still in when half ends with Pacers up 54-46.
Second half begins with all 5 starters. By 6:50 to go Miami has tied, due to 8 pts from LBJ and 4 from DWade. Roy goes out at 5:03 remaining, DW & GH go out at 2:58, score is Miami 69-65. With bench in, quarter ends Miami 76-70.
Fourth quarter starts with bench (GH & PG plus Lou, Barbosa, DC). DG swaps out for GH at 9:37 left, score Miami 82-79. West and Hibbert come back in at 06:12 (score Miami 86-81). Starters in the rest of the game but can't get it any closer. Final 101-93.
VERDICT: I think this is the game that folks on the "it was all LBJ against the starters" are using as their main ammunition. The run that changed the game was LBJ and DWade with the starters on the floor, and while everyone played even from that point on it was too late.
Game 5: Everyone sucked. VERDICT: Everyone sucked. No points are awarded to either side, and I need a stiff drink for being forced to even look at it again.
Game 6: Starters DW, DG, RH, PG, GH. Barbosa in for PG at 03:44 left in 1st, Pacers up 21-12 when DC and Tyler come in for GH and DW. Quarter ends with bench still in, Miller hits a 3 for the Heat to bring them within 28-21.
Second quarter starts with bench, Wade hits for 4 points (PG back in at this point) and Miller hits another 3 to tie the game 28-28. DW back in, Wade hits 4 more and LBJ hits one to put Miami up 34-30 with 9:00 left and Roy comes back in (now starters on the floor). Pacers get back to within 1, DWade hits one, DG and GH come back in. DWade hits another and Miller hits another 3, Miami up 41-35. Pacers take the lead back with 5:14 left in the half, score wobbles back and forth but half ends with Pacers on top 53-51.
Second half begins with starters in. Score wobbles more, Miami up 64-63 when DC comes in for DG (4 fouls). Miami up 68-66 when Barbosa comes in for GH. (still 3 starters on the floor). Miami up 71-69 (after West's technical) when Tyler comes in for Roy with 1:16 left in the 3rd (now bench is on the floor). Anthony, Miller, Chalmers hit (Miller & Chalmers for 3) to give Miami 79-69 lead.
Fourth quarter DG comes in for Barbosa after 22 seconds, now starters on the floor. All starters back in by 9:53 to go during Roy FTs that bring Pacers to within 83-75. Pacers get within 5 but shots from Battier & Anthony keep Miami well ahead. Pacers cut it to 6 with 2:31 left, LBJ sends it back to 10 with 2 makes up to 1:37. Final scores are an LBJ jumper and DWade FTs to make the final score 105-93.
VERDICT: This one is the poster child for the bench making it go belly-up. Arguably if the bench doesn't let Miami go on the unanswered run at the end of the 3rd, the Pacers have a shot because mundane scores by Anthony and Battier aren't going to keep Miami up by 10 points. The main point here is that this was NOT an LBJ or even DWade heroics game in terms of the effect on the run that gave Miami their big lead, so even if you blame the starters for not being able to get it done "in the clutch" you CAN'T claim they were abused by LBJ.
edit: Trader, I agree. And I love Frank too. And I was quick to compliment Frank because the Pacers were generally a great third quarter team. But I think he got out adjusted/coached in those final two games.
I do think it's easier to make adjustments when you have Wade and Lebron. And really, the reason Miami won that series was because both Lebron and Wade went into "mvp mode." I also think that Spoelstra figured out stuff that we really couldn't adjust to because of the players we have. (I don't quite remember what it was, might have been PnR with Lebron or Wade that we couldn't stop. Well, that and that they figured out that PG's a great defender, but struggles the second you run his man off of screens. Which Wade did a lot of in the last two games. )
I mean there's not a whole lot you can do when LBJ and Wade are hitting 15 foot contested runners every time down the court. You just have tip your hat and say GG. That's what changed the series in a big way on the court. Wade and Lebron added that move to their arsenal basically between game 2 and 4 (using game 3 as an adjustment period where it went horribly wrong for them)
What seems to be being missed here, and I admit I didn't read every post, is that our starters only play 28-32 minutes a game. Superstars tend to play 38-42. That's 10 minutes a game more. It doesn't really matter if for 30 minutes our starting crew is the best 5 in the world, which I don't think they are - but for the sake of argument let's say it's true, when other team's best players play 10 more minutes than ours.
Ultimately, it doesn't matter who gets the points, it's team points per possession that counts. DW and LBJ can be point machines, but if the Pacers can manufacture points through aggressive play (drawing fouls), and taking advantage of mismatches away from the superstars when such are available, they have a chance. Would it be easier if there was a matching DW and LBJ on our team? Of course, but it doesn't mean that the lack of same creates an impossible situation, only a very tough one.
Game 1: 3 starters played less than 30 minutes.
Game 2: 33 minutes Roy Hibbert, Paul George, 35 minutes George Hill to 43 minutes Lebron James
Game 3: 33 minutes Hibbert, Hill, George to 40 minutes Lebron James
Game 4: 28 minutes West, 30 Hill, 32 Hibbert to 44 minutes Lebron, 41 minutes Wade
Game 5: 4 starters under 30 minutes, West at 32.
Game 6: Win or go home, the only game our starters played near the minutes of their big guns, we still lose.
So no, our starters aren't on the floor enough, not even in the playoffs. Over half of our starting unit almost never goes over 33 minutes, we frequently have starters clock in under 30. Even in the playoffs. That's not gonna get it done unless you truly do have the best bench, reality is, I'd rather my best players on the floor longer, we need more endurance out of Hibbert and more trust in (and less fouling from) PG/GH so they can stay out there longer.
And the champion the Pacers are trying to emulate, the 2004 Detroit Pistons, all had their starters play significant minutes in the playoffs. Hamilton and Ben Wallace averaged 40, Billups 38, and Sheed and Prince 35 (including 4 overtime periods in 23 games). That's higher than the regular season averages of 38 (Ben), 35 (Hamilton and Billups), 33 (Prince), and 31 (Sheed).
For the Pacers, Granger and West averaged significantly more during the playoffs (especially West). George did as well, as did Hill, although his stats are skewed because he didn't start until the end of the season. The biggest concern should be, and I think is, Hibbert, who went up 1 minute per game in the playoffs (30 to 31). He needs to be able to effectively play 35 minutes a night in the playoffs. If he can't, that really hurts, because it's a good downgrade from him to Mahinmi.
LeBron could also play all of those minutes because they almost never called him for any fouls...
He was called for 5 fouls in six games played against us! Playing over 40 MPG! I know he's a great defender... But he ain't that good...
And this isn't to say that Granger and Paul played great D on those guys, but to expect them to shut those guys down is almost out of the question. The best thing you can do is play them tough and hope the refs allow physical play on both ends. You also can't let the other guys (Haslem, Battier) hit shots on you
Good points by Blu and VNZLA... He received marginally more fouls in the other series...
I still felt while watching the series that there were some aggressive defensive plays he made with no calls when there could have been... But it was the Playoffs... So I somewhat understand the refs just letting them play...
Hibbert's main fault is his endurance and I don't think that's going to change honestly. He'll never be the 35-40 mpg player unless he mails it in on defense for a lot of that time. I hope Mahinmi is a solid find and can try to cover the rest of those minutes decently, cause Lou and Tyler were awful in the playoffs.
Did anyone see the bleaher report article saying the Pacers won't even "sniff" the postseason. Wow, what a joke. I think the post stupid things just to get hits.