“We’re taking it back to South Beach.” —Roy Hibbert
In an exhilarating Game 6 performance, the Indiana Pacers, led by Paul George and Roy Hibbert, dominated the Miami Heat for most of the game. With a late surge from LeBron James and Mike Miller, it seemed as if the Heat would be able to mount the comeback they’ve grown accustomed to this year in the Playoffs. But the Pacers fought back and extended the series with gritty defense, fundamental positioning and a high level of efficiency on offense.
At the end of the third quarter, Miami was down by 13. After two three-pointers from Miller and four buckets by LeBron, the Heat quickly cut the deficit to only four points. But over the next two minutes, the Pacers would go on a 9-0 run, fueled by a quick three-pointer from Paul George, a basket from David West and LeBron giving the ball back to the Pacers on a drive that resulted in an offensive foul and subsequently two technical fouls.
According to George Hill, who spoke with TNT’s Kenny Smith following the game, the Pacers were prepared for the Heat to battle back late in the game. “We knew they were gonna make runs, we just had to hold on.” And hold on they did. Paul George added the final dagger with a three from the corner to pull the game out of reach for the Heat at 88-73 with just over a minute left to go.
LeBron James led the way for the Heat with 29 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists. James was again all alone in shouldering the offensive load for Miami as Mario Chalmers and Dwayne Wade were the only other Heat players to score in double figures, each posting merely 10 points on a combined 6-19 shooting. Chris Bosh took another step backwards hitting only a single field goal, grabbing a paltry 4 boards and virtually disappearing in the end of the game. It’s the third straight game that Bosh has been held to single digits.
For the Pacers, Paul George took the reins, hitting 11-19 for 28 points, grabbing 8 rebounds while dishing out 5 assists. Indiana shot 50 percent from the field, while Roy Hibbert was again a beast in the paint, scoring 24 points while pulling down 11 rebounds. Lance Stephenson and David West combined for 15 points, 16 rebounds and 8 assists, providing the support the Pacers needed desperately if they were going to turn Game 7 in Miami into a reality.
Wade’s knee has obviously been a problem for the struggling guard throughout the entire series. He’s been limited on defense, but the effect on Wade’s offensive game has been glaring. After the game, TNT’s Craig Sager asked Wade where he felt he was in his rehabilitation while he sat in the visiting locker room. Wade responded briskly, saying, “I don’t want to talk about it.”
For the Heat and head coach Erik Spoelstra, many questions still remain, even after six games. How can they close the gap in rebounds, energy and offense? The Heat felt Chris Andersen’s absence as he served a single-game suspension for shoving Tyler Hansbrough to the ground in Game 6. Andersen’s replacement Joel Anthony did work for the Heat in the rebounding department, pulling down a team-high 8 boards, but the two fouls he picked up in the end of the game cost the Heat momentum, something that Andersen regularly brought to the table. Bosh and Wade will also have to wake up out of their funk and get more involved for the Heat to have any chance at a second title run. Luckily for Miami, Indiana will still have to prove their backcourt can produce on the road in the same way they did tonight.
The lasting image of the game, however, will be LeBron James driving to the basket with just over four minutes to go in the fourth quarter. As James rose to lay the ball up over the 7-2 Hibbert, he knocked him to the ground, absorbing contact that was sure to draw a foul. Instead, Hibbert had gone straight up after leaping from the restricted area, drawing an offensive foul on James, sending him sprinting down to the other end of the floor in disbelief. When asked about the play after the game, Hibbert responded by saying, “I just wanted to make sure I put myself between him and the basket.”—Dan Friedman
Game 7 will be played Monday night in American Airlines Arena in Miami, FL. Tip-off begins at 8:30 p.m. EST on TNT. Quotes from this article were pulled from NBA.com and NBA TV’s live stream of each team’s post game press conferences.