The Eastern Conference Finals got underway on Sunday and while many were expecting a close game, it was anything but that. The Indiana Pacers took Game 1, winning easily over the Miami Heat, 107-96.
The final score wasn’t really indicative of Indiana’s dominance in this one. The Pacers never trailed and held a six-point lead at the end of the first quarter before stretching it to ten at the half. Indiana blew the game open, leading by 19 in the third quarter before a Miami run cut it to 13 heading into the fourth. The lead went back up to 18 with only a little more than four minutes left but another Heat run made the final score look more respectable.
This was the Pacers’ game from start to finish … even if some of the stats don’t show that.
Miami shot 51.3 percent from the field, had fewer turnovers, and got twice as much production out of their bench than Indiana did (26 points to 13). Typically, that’s enough to win a lot of games. The Heat not only lost, though, they were beaten soundly, largely due to Indiana’s work from the free throw line.
The Pacers got to the line a whopping 37 times to only 15 for the Heat. Their 29 points off of free throws were nearly three times as many as Miami’s ten. Teams can find other ways to win even when they aren’t getting to the free throw line as much, but it’s just very difficult to do so with that big of an advantage going one way.
Roy Hibbert‘s 13 attempts and nine made free throws were both nearly as much as the entire Miami squad. The rest of the Indiana starters were nearly perfect, going 16-18 from the charity stripe.
The whistles will be a big point of discussion from now until the start of Game 2. Because of that, it will be interesting to watch and see if the calls balance out a bit more in the next contest. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh attempted only seven free throws in the entire game. If nothing else, you can expect James, Wade and Bosh to get to the basket a lot more in the next game to try to draw more fouls.
The Pacers outplayed the Heat from start to finish, but free throws were a big reason the game was so lopsided.