Foul trouble, quiet Danny Granger doom Indiana Pacers in Game 1

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The Indiana Pacers made their presence felt early Sunday in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

A few glaring problems, however, prevented the upstart team from completely shocking the nation with an opening-game victory.

The Pacers, the East’s No. 3 seed, couldn’t shake deep foul trouble, poor free-throw shooting and quiet nights from wings Danny Granger and Paul George, falling 95-86 to the second-seeded Miami Heat at AmericanAirlines Arena.

Pacers coach Frank Vogel had ruffled some feathers in the media entering Sunday’s game, calling the Heat the biggest flopping team in the NBA and being handed a $15,000 fine for the manner in which those remarks pertained to the league’s officiating.

Turns out Vogel didn’t quite get a lot of value in return for his comments.

The Pacers were called for 31 personal fouls to the Heat’s 22. Three Pacers — Granger, George and David West — found themselves with two personal fouls before the end of the first quarter. Tyler Hansbrough was the only one of the Pacers’ players without a foul — everyone else committed at least two, and three Pacers fouled at least five times. George ended up fouling out toward the end of the game (which actually was a gift for Indiana; the replay of the foul showed Roy Hibbert committed the foul in question, which would have been his sixth).

Of course, pretty much everyone understood going in that the Pacers likely would not get much love on the officiating front. There were other reasons Indiana, who led by as  many as nine in the first half while shooting 50 percent, could not pull off the upset win.

  • Bad offensive outings for Granger and George. Neither player scored in the first half, which didn’t prevent the Pacers from heading to the locker room with a 48-42 halftime lead. The problem was neither Granger nor George could muster anything after the break. Granger, the team’s captain and leading scorer, went just one-of-10 from the field and finished with seven points. He also made a devastating error late in the game when he failed to recognize a pass from West that ended up flying out of bounds and back into Miami’s possession. George was just one-of-five with six points. Heat wings LeBron James and Dwyane Wade certainly made things tough on Granger and George as far as scoring (by contrast, James and Wade scored 32 and 29 points, respectively), but both will need to produce if the Pacers are to win games.
  • Poor free-throw shooting. The Pacers went 20-of-28 from the free-throw line. Of the Pacers who attempted free throws, only Granger and Darren Collison did not miss at least one charity shot. Leandro Barbosa, an 81.5-percent free-throw shooter, went 1-of-4 at the line, missing his first three attempts. The Pacers’ misses at the stripe amount to eight lost points that could have helped keep some of the game’s momentum on Indiana’s side.
  • Outworked on the boards. Rebounding figured to be an area in which the Pacers could give the Heat some fits. Turns out Game 1 went exactly the opposite way. Miami bullied Indiana off the boards down the stretch, grabbing 45 to the Pacers’ 38. The Heat gave themselves many more second chances with 15 offensive rebounds while the Pacers, who were among the top rebounding teams in the league during the regular season, grabbed just eight boards off the offensive glass. West and Hibbert did their parts — they pulled down 12 and 11 rebounds, respectively — and could have had more if not for foul trouble. Even then, though, the long boards didn’t fall Indiana’s way either. James grabbed 15 rebounds, six of which came on the offensive end and from several missed Heat shots. Even after Chris Bosh left in the second quarter with an abdominal strain, Joel Anthony picked up the slack and added seven rebounds of his own.

The result wasn’t unexpected, and it is still early in the series. However, the Pacers’ inability to hang with the Heat late in the game as well as Granger’s and George’s lackluster outings do give way to those who have voiced their concerns over the supposed lack of a superstar as a potentially unbreakable barrier for this Pacers team. The rest of the series could do a lot to validate or dispel that notion.

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