A few hours before his team began the Eastern Conference finals with its worst performance of the playoffs, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra joked about his legendary stubbornness.
Apparently, not even Pat Riley can sway the Heat’s coach out of a decision.
When asked who was in the starting lineup before Sunday’s game, Spoelstra wisecracked that he has “proven to probably everybody in the Heat organization how stubborn” he is. Spoelstra wouldn’t reveal his starting lineup, and when the coaches’ lineup cards were finally submitted 45 minutes before the game, Shane Battier was penciled in as a starter rather than Udonis Haslem.
It created some matchups that favored the Indiana Pacers, who began the game with an offensive flourish. At times in these playoffs, the Pacers have been offensively inept, but in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals Indiana scored 55 points in the game’s first two quarters.
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Spoelstra plugged Haslem into the starting lineup at halftime, but that didn’t change much and probably just emboldened the Pacers even more. The contenders had landed the first punch of the series, and the defending back-to-back champions appeared stunned and unsure of themselves.
Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals is 8:30 Tuesday night at Indianapolis’ Bankers Life Fieldhouse, and on Monday the Heat reviewed film and went through the best-of-7 series’ first off-day adjustment.
Spoelstra is expected to start Haslem, and LeBron James gave good hint that he would much rather guard Paul George than David West.
Spoelstra, of course, remained true to form and gave nothing away.
“It doesn’t matter who we play,” Spoelstra said. “We still have an identity to get to, and we didn’t get to it no matter what lineup we had out there. Every single lineup, whether it was big or small, it was the same thing.
“They had us on our heels, and we never could consistently get to our defensive identity.”
George scored 18 points in the second half, and the Heat didn’t have an answer for David West. Meanwhile, Roy Hibbert attempted eight free throws in the second half.
‘A bad result’
“To be frank about it, there was a lack of detail, a lack of focus, a lack of discipline, a lack of effort,” Spoelstra said. “Put that all in a bowl, and you get a bad result.”
James guarded West in the post, and the matchup took a toll. On Monday after the Heat’s practice, James joked that he has only faced two players stronger than him on the basketball court and West is one of them. Shaquille O’Neal is the other.
“I’m a perimeter guy,” James said. “I can do a lot of things, but I made my money being a perimeter guy, and obviously from the circumstances of our team, we’re not the biggest team in the world, so I have to play big at times and guard bigger guys … so it’s challenging, but I got to do it at this point.
“I’m trying to get a trip to the Finals, so whatever it takes.”
Chris Bosh, who offered little resistance against West in Game 1, called the Pacers’ power forward “a bull in a china shop,” and said the loss was a good reminder that “you’re mortal, and you can bleed.”
“Our defense can be bad, just as bad as it can be good,” Bosh said. “We know that now, and we always get a reminder to kind of really spark our fire inside our bellies.”
A day after going 0 of 5 from three-point range, Bosh said he was confident his shots would start falling. Bosh was shooting 48 percent from three-point range in the postseason before Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.
“If it’s uncontested shots over the course of a series,if you continue to take them, it’s going to turn in your favor,” Bosh said. “I missed some wide-open shots and you miss them sometimes, but I know I’m not going to miss them [Tuesday] or probably for the rest of the year, and if I do, I know it’s going to even out.
“I just have to stay aggressive and stay confident, and if you continue to leave me open, you will eventually pay.”
Bosh missed the Heat’s first shot of the game, a three-point attempt from the corner, and could never find his rhythm. He finished 4-of-12 shooting overall.
“[Sunday] was target practice, and I missed most of the targets, but I have a feel for it,” Bosh said.