Pacers 97, Heat 93 (Series tied 1-1)
Roy Hibbert and the rest of the Indiana Pacers needed to play at an exceptionally high level for them to have any chance of stealing a game in Miami. They had to find a way to limit the influence of the best basketball player in the game. They had to produce enough offense, and defense, late in the game, when it counted the most. They had to play the right players at all the right moments. That means no more wide-open lanes for MVPs to slash through and drop in game-winners.
They did it all.
Paul George and LeBron James traded baskets in an emphatic showdown, Hibbert dominated, and David West sealed the win for the Pacers with two clutch steals in the waning seconds of a pivotal Game 2 matchup. With the victory, the series is knotted up at 1-1, and the Pacers take home-court advantage from the reigning world champions.
In the winning effort, Hibbert scored a career-high 29 points and grabbed 10 rebounds while clogging up the paint on both ends of the floor. All five of the Pacers’ starters scored in double figures. Paul George put up 22 on 9-16 shooting, including an absolutely vicious slam over Chris Anderson late in the third quarter. George Hill added 18, West scored 13, and Lance Stephenson put up 10 points.
For those who weren’t watching, Hibbert was in the game during the end of the fourth quarter. But his presence was ancillary to that of fellow big man David West, the man who picked off James twice as he scrambled to find the open man ending any opportunities for late-game heroics.
The Miami Heat were down for most of the game with Indiana’s largest lead reaching 13, and at times, it seemed like Miami was running a one-man show with James as the star. The regular season MVP ended the game with 36 points (a Playoff high), eight rebounds and three assists. Dwayne Wade added 14 points and five assists, and Chris Bosh put up 17, but they were the only other players to score in double figures for the Heat.
Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra was asked in the postgame press conference about the need for guys like Ray Allen and Shane Battier to step up and help out LeBron on the wing. He responded by shifting the focus to the future, “We have to gather ourselves and get ready for Game 3,” said Spoelstra. “That’s our only focus right now.”
The Pacers were beaten by the better team in Game 1. The Heat simply outplayed them and executed in the final minutes of the game. So Indiana gathered themselves, focused on their plans and executed. Late in the game, Indiana head coach Frank Vogel was griping on his players to attack the rim and get to the foul line, stay focused and hold their ground.
They responded when James went for the drive with under a minute left to go and the score within two, an all too familiar play by now. Instead of James stepping past Paul George and hitting the game-tying layup while probably blowing the roof off of American Airlines Arena, George stood his ground and stayed in front of James, forcing him into a turnover. It probably helped that George had his security blanket, Roy Hibbert, standing behind him at that particular moment in the game.
The Pacers have a chance to take a 2-1 lead in Game 3 on Sunday night in Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, IN, tip-off begins at 8:30 p.m. EST. Indiana is 6-0 at home in Playoffs this year.
Quotes from this article were pulled from NBA.com’s live stream of each team’s post game press conferences.—Daniel Friedman / @DFried615