Key Adjustments Miami Heat Must Make to Win Eastern Conference Finals

Peter Emerick@@peteremerickSenior Writer IIMay 21, 2013

Feb 1 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) defends Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (24) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana defeats Miami 102-89. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Heat are set to square off against the upset-minded Indiana Pacers on Wednesday, May 22, but they aren't just going to walk in and knock off the Pacers.

LeBron James and company strolled past the Milwaukee Bucks and they easily handled the Chicago Bulls, but the Pacers are a very different beast.

Not only are they the most physical defensive team the Heat have faced all postseason, they also have defensively sound depth in their frontcourt which is the Heat's Achilles' heel.

Because the Pacers can fill the paint with guys like Roy Hibbert, David West and Tyler Hansbrough, they are able to force the Heat to beat them on the perimeter.

Without interior penetration, the NBA's second-best three-point shooting team, the Heat, won't be able to shoot at the high percentage they normally do—39.6 percent from beyond the arc on the season.

While the Bulls gave up the least points per game, the Pacers play more physical defense in terms of shooting percentage—forcing opponents to shoot just 45.3 percent from the floor during the regular season.

In addition to that defensive pressure, the Pacers were also the best rebounding team during the regular season, averaging 45.9 rebounds (12.9 offensive) per game.

When you mix their interior depth, their defensive pressure and their ability to rebound the ball, you can see how they pose a significant threat to the Heat's championship hopes.

The good news is that the Heat can counter those advantages the Pacers have with two key adjustments, starting with allowing LeBron James to control the ball at the point.


Allow LeBron James to Control the Ball at the Point

LeBron is the Heat's best point man, and it's because of his 6'8'' and 250-pound frame, mixed with his insane ability to control the ball. 

When guys like Mario Chalmers and Dwyane Wade drive against the Pacers, they meet Roy Hibbert and David West's physicality. And while they are able to score at times against the Pacers' dominant duo, their lack of size gives the Pacers an advantage.

That means the Heat's best chances of collapsing the Pacers' defense lie within LeBron's ability to get into the paint.

Collapsing the defense not only opens up the Heat's perimeter offense, it also is a great way to get the Pacers' bigs in foul trouble, which is something the Heat would greatly benefit from in this series.

The Knicks got beat by the Pacers because they couldn't knock down shots from the perimeter, and that's because they had no one to collapse the Pacers' defense.

Luckily the Heat do, and his name is LeBron James. It also just makes sense for the Heat to give the ball more often than not to the best player on the court and in the entire NBA—that's just common sense, right?

The final key adjustment the Heat must make to beat the Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals is to get into transition at all costs.


Focus First and Foremost on Transition Offense

There's no doubt that the Heat are the best team in the NBA at dominating games with transition offense. And that's exactly what they need to do to beat Indiana.

The Knicks and Hawks failed to get into transition, which allowed the Pacers to set up their fearsome half-court defense.

The best way to beat the best defense in the NBA is honestly to not allow it to set up, and with LeBron and Wade running in transition, that's exactly what the Heat can do.

Guys like Hibbert and West don't thrive in transition. But the Heat, with frontcourt players like Chris Bosh, Udonis Haslem and Chris Andersen, absolutely do and they need to maximize that advantage. 

That's certainly easier said than done, especially with the Heat's rebounding woes, but it's doable because the Heat have the athleticism it takes to control the break.

If the Heat are able to minimize the Pacers' interior defensive pressure and get into transition, they will be able to beat the Pacers in four or five games—that's how good the Heat are. 

If they don't focus on those adjustments, it will be a much longer series for Miami, possibly going a full seven games.