Back and forth and back and forth and back again. This Heat/Pacers series has been the Motion Sickness Derby.
Just when you think LeBron and Co. have it all wrapped up, Paul George comes in with 28 points and 5 assists of his own to take Game 6. Now, we're left with a Game 7 scenario where the Heat are the clear favorites, but in a one game sample size, anything can happen.
Well, almost anything. Stats never take a back seat to anybody, and there are some key stats that we'll be looking for in this game. Earlier today, we took a look at some of the top prop bets in tonight's game. Now, though, we're looking at the three stats that should decide what really matters: who goes on to face the Spurs in the NBA Finals.
Indiana's Effective Field Goal Percentage
I know everybody has been focusing on the Heat offense vs. Indiana defense battle, but contrary to popular belief, there are indeed two sides of the court. And in deciding tonight's game, Indiana's scoring end may just be the deciding factor.
The Pacers were absolutely pitiful shooting the ball during the regular season, finishing with a .479 effective field goal percentage (eFG%). That mark ranked No. 22 in the NBA, nearly 80 percentage points lower than Miami's league-best shooting rate. Roy Hibbert was probably the worst offender overall, finishing with an abysmal .449 eFG% in 79 total games played.
Miami, meanwhile, wasn't really that bad on the defensive end. Their .487 eFG% allowed ranked ninth-best in the NBA. Especially with LeBron and a healthy Dwyane Wade on the court, opposing teams didn't have too many places to turn in order to try and keep up with the Miami offense.
Heading into the Pacers series, the Heat had the defense rolling at an all-time high, as their .459 eFG% allowed through their first two playoff series was the best mark of any playoff team. But somewhere, the wheels fell off. Bolstered by Hibbert's .504 playoff eFG%, the Pacers have topped .500 eFG% in three games this series. Those three games? All Indiana wins.
Given the season statistics, expecting the Pacers to shoot over .500 eFG% is rooting for a major outlier. Given Miami's offensive prowess, though, that outlier may be necessary if the Pacers are to keep pace.
It's the playoffs, so one might expect games to go a bit slower due to the heightened intensity. But man, these games have had the pace of Insane Bolt's evil cousin Molasses. (Who represents AT&T on commercials, I presume?)
The Pacers finished 25th-quickest in the NBA this season at a pace 90.2 possessions per 48 minutes, while the Heat weren't much better at a 23rd-best 90.7 possessions per 48 minutes. But when the Diet Coke and Mentos of slow paces have combined, there has been a explosion of... well, lack of explosions.
The quickest game in the series was Game 1, which clocked in at a not-so-blistering 86.9 total possessions. Since then, not a single game has topped 85 possessions, and Game 4 almost put me to sleep with 79.4 possessions between these two teams.
The result is a lot of half-court offensive sets between the two. Fewer fast breaks means fewer opportunities for James and Wade in the open court, and that has driven overall scoring down. Presumably, this helps the defensive-oriented Pacers. And indeed, the two slowest games in the series were Indiana victories, while Game 6 beat out Game 5 by exactly 0.1 more possessions.
I read earlier today that Chris Bosh apologized to the Heat for his play before Game 7. I can understand why, because recently, Bosh's offensive game has resembled vintage Darko Milicic in his prime. Spoiler: Darko never had a prime.
In Game 6, Bosh managed to go 1 for 8 from the field for an eFG% of .188 (his one make was a three). In Game 4, he went 1 for 6 en route to a .250 eFG% (same deal with the three). What is the common thread between both of those games? Miami couldn't get any offense going whatsoever, and they fell to Indiana with an overall team eFG% at .431 or below in each case.
Sometimes, Bosh can influence the game even when he's not scoring. It's all about staying efficient. In Game 5, for instance, Bosh only scored seven points, but his not-half-bad 3 for 7 shooting allowed someone else to take the spotlight while Miami's shooting efficiency remained up to par. And if Bosh is going to take the shots, as he did on his 6 for 10 Game 3 performance, he better make them.
The Miami offense certainly doesn't run through Bosh, but with Dwyane Wade suffering from living perpetually in Kevin Durant's good dream scenario, Miami needs someone else to step up. And by someone else, I mean someone more than the unreliable Chris Andersen or Udonis Haslem. In Bosh's four games shooting well, the Miami offense ran well (they lost Game 2 due to poor shooting defense). But if Bosh doesn't come to play, it could be a long night for the Heat offensively.