by Dave Spahn / @DaveSpahn
Heat 105, Pacers 93 (Heat win series 4-2)
The basketball crazed state of Indiana saw its home town team flirt with victory in Game 6 vs the Miami Heat, but unlike the true “Hoosiers” ending, the Pacers went home empty. Credit Dwayne Wade’s 41 points to most of the Pacers struggles as Wade cut through the defense like a steak knife for all 40 minutes he was on the court. He somehow found his way through or around virtually every player on the Pacers roster en route to his 41 points. Since LeBron James dominated Games 4 and 5, the Pacers desperately needed to slow LeBron down. Their keying on LeBron gave Wade room to attack the rim and do what he does best: put the ball in the hole.
Completely and utterly shutting both LeBron and Wade down in the same game is just about impossible. Teams have tried to create ways to slow one or both of them down, and some teams fall into some good luck when James or Wade shoot the ball poorly one night. Pacers coach Frank Vogel knew his squad needed to slow James and Wade down in order to move past the Heat, but his philosophy was easier said than done. He explained his frustrations about finding ways to contain “The Big Two” after the game. “We had our whole focus on Derrick Rose (in the playoffs) last year and it’s like having two of them out there. Only bigger.” He added, “These guys played at such a high level I don’t know if anyone could beat them.”
I made the comment in the Game 5 recap about David West and Roy Hibbert needing monster games in order to stay alive in the series. They both played very well, with West leading the Pacers in scoring, but they didn’t have “monster” outings. Hibbert needed another 19 points and 18 rebounds game to go along with West’s 24 point outing. Wade and LeBron, on the other hand, posted monster outings. LeBron’s 28 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists statline yet again opens eyes, and Wade’s 41 point outburst put the Heat over the top.
The unsung heroes of the game may not get as much credit, but the Heat’s supporting cast played a much better game than expected. Mike Miller nailed four triples for the first time in this year’s playoffs. Mario Chalmers played 32 minutes without turning the ball over one time and aided in the scoring category with 15 points. Joel Anthony’s stat line may not impress, but he made a lot of hustle plays and did enough to keep the Pacers frontcourt from taking over the game.
All in all, the Pacers simply were in over their heads in the second round. Credit their effort, their intensity, their scrappy play, and their never-die attitudes for creating possibly the most compelling second round series of the playoffs. As has been evident since the start of the season, the Pacers lacked the true star to answer the blows delivered by James and Wade. Beating the Heat requires an incredible amount of discipline both offensively and defensively, a skill the Pacers did not have down at times on the offensive end. Too many quick shots with 20 seconds left in the shot clock and somewhat of a lack of offensive identity doomed the Pacers in the end. They head home empty handed but gained a sense of respect from across the league. The Pacers may not have a superstar yet, but they sure will have every team’s attention in the years ahead.