Heat 90, Pacers 79 (Heat lead series 3-2)
In a game that was all about the tale of two halves, the Miami Heat took control of the Eastern Conference Finals with a convincing win over the Indiana Pacers Thursday night in American Airlines Arena.
Heading into the game and even after the first half, the Heat’s reputation was hanging in the balance. If Miami lost, they would be going down 3-2 in the Playoffs and would have an 83 percent chance of being knocked out completely.
One year removed from a championship, it wouldn’t bode well for their future hopes of a dynasty. Instead of “not one, not two, not three…” it would have looked like their number of rings would stop at one, especially with Dwyane Wade ailing and getting older by the minute.
There was only one way the Heat could avert disaster: LeBron James had to play so well that it would overshadow the ineptitude of his teammates, particularly Chris Bosh, and stunt on the Pacers. When the second half started, James was ready for the moment and completely took the game over, single handedly willing his team to victory. In the third quarter alone, James individually outscored the entire Pacers team 16-13. He would finish the game with 30 points, eight rebounds and six assists.
In response to LeBron’s performance, Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra noted in the post game press conference, “That’s LeBron showing his greatness and making it look easy. His engine in that third quarter was incredible,” explained Spoelstra. “He was making plays on both ends of the court, rebounding, covering so much ground defensively and then making virtually every play for us offensively.”
The first half told a story of an Indiana Pacers team that was looking to take control of the series. Paul George and Roy Hibbert started the game hot, combining to score the first 23 points of the game for Indiana. George’s 15 points in the first half were a great sign for the Pacers, as he’s only scored 17 combined in the first half of the last four games.
The second half told an entirely different story. The Pacers began showing signs of fatigue and the Heat continued to move the ball well and tire out the visiting squad. Indiana had the lead in the first half, but the Heat came back and trounced the Pacers in the second by a 15-point margin. James’ third quarter performance will be the lasting memory of the night. He thoroughly outplayed the entire Pacers team by himself, single handedly scoring more and dishing out more assists.
After the game, TNT’s David Aldridge asked Pacers forward David West about why the Heat were able to get their offense going in the second half: “Haslem basically had the same exact game he had, same amount of shots, same amount of makes,” said West. “We just didn’t defend the way we know we’re capable of. It’s going to be tough to get another win and force a Game 7. We knew this game was going to be tough. We just didn’t have enough fight.”
For the Heat, Udonis Haslem was the X-factor, scoring 16 points on 8-9 shooting from the field in only 26 minutes. Mario Chalmers had 12 points and six assists, and Wade added 10 points and six rebounds. Chris Bosh only put up seven points and five rebounds in 33 minutes of play, continuing to fuel speculation about his trade viability after the season.
George led the way for the Indiana Pacers scoring 27 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and dishing out five assists. Despite George’s strong offensive play, the Pacers shot poorly in the second half, shooting under 40 percent. Hibbert was the team’s second-leading scorer with 22 points and six rebounds, while West added 17 and eight.
With the Pacers going stale on offense in the second half, Lance Stephenson not scoring a bucket until late in the fourth quarter, and Indiana being way too careless with the ball, the Heat, or LeBron, took control of the series. Now, it’s up to the Pacers to slow down James and Co. on their home court Saturday night in Game 6.--Daniel Friedman
Game 6 will be played Saturday night in Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, IN. 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.