by Kent Sterling
The Pacers and Heat know each other well enough to be good and pissed off about the behavior of the other, and the officiating has both fan bases equally upset.
Regardless of the extraneous fooferah, the game will be won because one of these teams will put the ball in the bucket more often than the other. Equally important will be the defensive ability of both teams to keep the ball out of the bucket on the other end.
So what are the keys to this contest?
Interestingly, the irrefutable statistical truth is that when George Hill and Lance Stephenson enjoy nights when they hit shots well, the Pacers win. If Hill’s effective field goal percentage (the effective FG% factors in the extra point when shots are taken from beyond the arc) is 35% or better, the Pacers are 9-2 in the postseason, and 2-1 against the Heat. When it’s below 35%, the Pacers are 1-3, including 0-1 vs. the Heat.
When Stephenson’s effective FG% is better than 40%, the Pacers are 10-1. When it’s below 40%, they are 0-5. The lone loss was Game Four against Atlanta. Just as interesting, when Stephenson’s offensive rating (an estimate of points produced per 100 possessions) tops 100, the Pacers are 8-0. When he is below 100, the Pacers are 2-6 with both wins against Atlanta. If Stephenson makes three or more field goals, the Pacers are 9-2. When he makes one or two, they are 1-4, including both losses to the Heat.
That’s not conclusive, but it is an interesting bellwether.
Here might be a more impactful stat for the Heat’s Chris Bosh. When Bosh makes more than 45% of his field goal attempts, the Heat are an undefeated 10-0. When he hits less, the Heat are a winless 0-3. When Bosh makes one or more three-pointer, the Heat are 4-3. When he makes none, the Heat are 6-0.
How about some Dwyane Wade numerical love? When Wade hits more than 50% of his shots, the Heat are 6-0, but only 3-3 when he doesn’t.
It appears not to matter what the hell LeBron James does. He scores a bunch – the Heat win and lose. He shoots a lot or less, doesn’t matter.
So based on the skinny evidence available from 13 Heat games and 16 Pacers tilts this postseason, we know that for the Pacers to win:
- Hill’s effective field goal percentage must 35% or better
- Stephenson’s effective FG% needs to be better than 40%
- Stephenson’s offensive rating (an estimate of points produced per 100 possessions) must top 100
- Bosh must make less than 45% of his field goal attempts
- Bosh must make a three-pointer
- Wade must make less than 50% of his shots
In basketball terms, what the hell does all that mean?
- The Heat should keep Bosh closer to the basket to help his efficiency. On the block, he helps the offense. Away from the basket, not so much.
- The Pacers must keep Wade weak. If he gets off, it’s over.
- Stephenson needs to be disciplined on the offensive end convert at a high rate. It’s not the quantity, it’s the quality. Same with Hill.
Obviously, a bunch of other stuff must happen, but after hours of looking at the statistics, the other stuff appears not to lead definitively to a win or a loss.