Heat 114, Pacers 96 (Heat leads series 2-1)
The Miami Heat entered Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals trying to steal back a game in Indiana. With a possible one-game deficit and the trepidation that comes along with having to come back from being down in a playoff series, Miami needed to outplay and outcoach the Indiana Pacers on their home court.
In the closing minutes, Pacers forward Tyler Hansbrough threw up a 20-footer, clanking the shot off the backboard. Just a moment before that hideous attempt, Miami’s Norris Cole hit a three from the corner with ease, even as a defender rose up with an arm stretched in his face. Those two plays told the whole story for each team Sunday night. Miami hit their shots, and the Pacers simply did not.
For the Heat, the loss in Game 2 proved to be the ultimate wake-up call. Miami had a franchise-low five turnovers on Sunday night, Lebron James scored a team-high 22 points and Chris Bosh put up 15 points. Dwayne Wade contributed a solid 18 and eight assists while the team shot a blazing 54 percent from the field. The Big 3 were on point, James created problems for the Pacers down low and the added assistance from the rest of the team helped seal the win.
Heading into the game, Norris Cole, Ray Allen, Shane Battier and Udonis Haslem combined to average only 10.5 points per game while shooting under 17 percent from the field. Haslem came through in a big way with 17 points and seven rebounds on 8-9 shooting. Cole, Allen and Battier combined for 18 on another mediocre shooting night.
After the game, Wade who’s been Haslem’s teammate for the longest amount of time of anyone on the team explained that he’s the “heartbeat” of this squad. “When he talks, everybody listens,” said Wade. “We understand this guy is all heart. He’s a total team guy. So when he steps up to say something, everybody listens, from the players to all the coaches.”
For the Pacers, the loss was a lesson in continuity. The team strayed from their offensive game plan, lost their momentum and let Miami take them out of their comfort zone. Through the first two games, Indiana picked apart the Heat’s defense with effective ball movement and continuous inside-out play. With a frontcourt that includes David West and Roy Hibbert, the Pacers had the advantage on the boards and Hibbert helped orchestrate the show.
Instead, Miami’s big men and Lebron James pushed them around and finally got Indiana out of their game. By the second half, Paul George and the Pacers were relegating to playing one-on-one basketball and hoisting up regularly contested shots in frustration. George had a tough night offensively, scoring only 13 points on 3-10 shooting with a team-high five turnovers.
West led the Pacers’ solid frontcourt with 21 points and 10 boards. Hibbert followed with another All-Star effort putting up 20 points and 17 rebounds. George Hill added 19 and Lance Stephenson only contributed seven points in 34 minutes.
Miami took over in the second quarter, putting up 36 points to take a 70-56 lead at halftime, their largest lead of the series so far. James and Wade were relentless in pounding the ball down low in the post, and from then on the Pacers were simply trying to catch up.
The biggest stat of the night was Miami’s five turnovers. With ball security in high order, the Heat were able to control the tempo of the game, and in turn were able to set up their defense with enough time to counter what Indiana has done the past two matchups on offense.
In the post game press conference, James was asked why he thought the Heat were so good at responding to a loss in the postseason. “That’s what playoff basketball is all about,” said James. “We’re just a team that bounces back from adversity. This is a great group of guys who love the pressure moments.”–Daniel Friedman
Game 4 will be played Tuesday night in Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, IN, tip-off begins at 8:30 p.m. EST. Quotes from this article were pulled from NBA.com and NBA TV’s live stream of each team’s post game press conferences.