If you happened to be sleeping under a rock over the past day or so, perhaps you missed game 1 of the Indiana Pacers vs Miami Heat series where Lebron James scored the game winning layup in an overtime victory giving Miami a 1-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Many Pacer fans believe Vogel made a horrible decision and question his coaching ability while TNT NBA commentators Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith have defended the decision by Pacers coach to leave Roy Hilbert on the bench in the closing seconds of the overtime game. Sports Unbiased conducted our own debate and here’s what happened.
Debaters: Sam Wright vs J.R. Williams
Round 1: Did Pacers coach Frank Vogel exercise poor judgement by benching Roy Hibbert?
J.R.: Absolutely, he made a huge defensive coaching error. Roy Hibbert is one of the premiere defenders in the league and the proof of his blocking abilities was on display during the New York Knicks series. Hibbert blocked a pivotal dunk attempted by Carmelo Anthony, a block that helped the Indiana Pacers close out the Knicks and eventually close out the series. Hibbert should have been in the game. I feel more comfortable with a jump shot attempt by the Heat to win the game but to lose an overtime game to a layup is completely unacceptable. Vogel should have inserted his best defensive lineup, now the Pacers are in a situation where they have to win game 2.
Sam: Not in the least! Coach Vogel studied the Miami Heat offense and made a decision based off of his analysis of Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. The Heat have a go to offensive play named….wait for it….LeBron! Just like when he was in Cleveland, where they get him the ball and he does what he does…score. Coach Vogel anticipated with two seconds left that LBJ was going to shoot a jumper (Just like Mike, If I could be like Mike!) but LBJ has grown into a steady high basketball I.Q. MVP. Indiana coaches did their homework and got a 64 on their test, but class is not over!
Round 2: Would you fault any other members of the Indiana Pacers for the defensive collapse?
JR: Yes, First Paul George made a huge defensive mistake overplaying Lebron James, his defensive mistake led to the Lebron layup and if the Pacers had adequate help-defense under the basket, the Pacers would have won game 1. With only two seconds on the clock, Roy Hibbert could have camped out in the lane without the pressure if a 3-second violation. Most importantly, David West provided horrible inbound defense because he allowed an easy inbound pass to Lebron James. West should have denied the pass to Lebron and forced the ball in another Heat player hands.
Sam: No, I wouldn’t fault any member of the Indiana Pacers individually. I would however fault the entire team though. There was a breakdown by Indiana before the play even started. The first mistake was allowing a direct pass to James. The second was allowing the pass to James in the paint. Indiana should always remain aware of where James is on the floor and ensure that if he does get the ball make it a pass beyond the three-point line! Then they should be able to live with a jumper but not give up an uncontested layup. Paul George was on an island like the TV series “Lost” once LBJ got the ball inside the three-point line.
Round 3: If you could change the outcome of the game, what would you do?
JR: I would have placed Roy Hibbert back in the lineup and loaded up the Pacer defense on the inbound side of the court to force a cross-court pass or rushed jump-shot. I know Sam will provide some hair brained rebuttal based off his experience coaching senior citizens basketball but the fact is the best defensive team should have been placed on the floor! Perhaps we can agree on the Pacers defensive strategy.
Sam: Well, unlike the PlayStation 2 defensive call you mentioned earlier, I would have to agree with you on this one. I’d put Roy Hibbert out there for the last minutes where it will make a difference, it’s as simple as that. I would make sure my center who in the last three playoff games has a combined 49 points and 28 rebounds would be on film forever trying to make a difference on the floor and not on the bench.