Pacers 94, Heat 75 (IND leads 2-1)
Pacers coach Frank Vogel warned his team after Game 2 about not straying from their “tough guy” mentality upon returning to Indianapolis. He wanted the Pacers to continue to play with an edge and a chip on their shoulder, using their “Gold Swagger” to push them over the top. He received his wish and more on Thursday night with a nearly 20-point victory against the Eastern Conference pre-season favorites.
On a night when everything, and I mean everything, was clicking for the Pacers, the fans brought incredible energy to Bankers Life Fieldhouse and sported their new “Gold Swagger” t-shirts in the stands. They fittingly brought their A-game the same night the Pacer players brought their A-game, and hometown hero George Hill showed love for all Pacer fans in attendance. “Without them (the fans), this building wouldn’t have been electrifying; we wouldn’t have had all the juice we had. We rallied behind them.”
The Pacers came out swinging from the start and opened the floodgates in the second half. They broke open a lead that stretched past 20 thanks to the dominating performance of Roy Hibbert. Hibbert’s 19 points, 18 rebounds, and 5 blocks showed how valuable of a weapon he can be in this series. The Heat simply sport no players on the roster who can fairly match up with Hibbert on either side of the floor. Give Pacers coach Frank Vogel credit for exploiting the glaring Heat frontcourt weakness without the injured Chris Bosh.
The Heat, on the other hand, now have some big time problems. They played three games in a row and failed to come up with a solution on stopping the Pacers’ own version of the “Big Two” of Hibbert and David West. Two of their starters failed to score a single point all game. The Pacers outrebounded the Heat by 15 and shot 37 percent higher than the Heat from beyond the arc. Most importantly, Dwayne wade finished the game 2-13 with 5 points, the lowest he has scored all Playoffs by a gaping wide margin.
The Heat really dug themselves in a hole after Game 3. Losing Game 4 puts them in a “lose and go home” situation heading back to Miami. Winning Game 4 cleans the slate with 2 out of 3 potential remaining games being at home. The insane amount of minutes LeBron has played thus far definitely shows during the games. Spoestra’s “You flat out can’t get tired, period” strategy will not hold up much longer in a series against a team much, much deeper than the Heat. Without any help from Wade, the Heat laid an egg and need to completely wipe the slate clean. Questions do arise, however, when a top-10 player in the league scores 5 total points.
How many people predicted the Heat down 2-1 after three games against the Pacers? The Heat can go one of two ways: fold or attack. They will either throw in the towel and get run off the floor by the Pacers, or Wade will own up to his lackluster performance and ignite everyone’s play en route to the Eastern Conference Finals. —Dave Spahn (@DaveSpahn)
Spurs 105, Clippers 88 (SAS leads 2-0)
This is getting ugly. Embarrassing. Chris Paul knows it. His play in the Western Conference Semifinals has been poor, at best, thus far and reached a new low Thursday. He appeared lost, at times, and the Clippers struggled as a result in a 105-88 loss against the San Antonio Spurs. It’s time for CP3 to take some accountability. He needs to man up.
After taking a look at the box score, it’s difficult to believe that Paul had 10 points on 4-of-9 shooting from the field. He jacked up the ball less than 10 times, that stat must change when the Clippers return home Saturday for Game 3 and Sunday for Game 4. Moreover, Paul had 4 assists to 8 turnovers on Tuesday, a career Playoff-high. Or low, when you think about.
There’s plenty of blame to go around in the Clippers camp, mind you. It’s not as if if his teammates played with much, if any, intensity. This is the playoffs, after all. It’s win or go home. Blake Griffin had 1 rebound. DeAndre Jordan had 7. Both need to crash the boards. Randy Foye and Caron Butler combined for 20 points. That output needs to increase.
When Paul struggles, the Clippers go into the tank, it seems. Take Game 1 against the Spurs, for example: CP3 was 3-13 from the field for 6 points in another lopsided loss, 108-92. Sure he had 10 assists and 5 steals. But turnovers were a problem once again, he had 5. The Chris Paul everyone watched during the regular season is not the Chris Paul we’re seeing in the NBA Playoffs. At least, not against the Spurs.
“I don’t ever recall having that many turnovers,” Paul said.
Perhaps something else is going on with Paul that we don’t know about. For the record, the Clippers haven’t been in Los Angeles for a week. They’ve played seven games in 13 days. After Sunday, it will have been nine games in 16 days. Maybe the shortened season is catching up with him and his hip and groin problems are bothering more than he’s letting on. We haven’t even started to talk about Tony Parker having outplayed Paul in every facet of the series.
“I’m sure he’s going to come back stronger in Game 3,” Parker said. “I’m sure he’s going to bounce back.”
Regardless, CP3 needs to take some ownership of his poor play and turn things around. Sooner rather than later, that is. If he doesn’t, the Clippers are going to get swept out of the Western Conference Semifinals by the Spurs. Things appear to be heading in that direction as we speak. Talk about ugly and embarrassing. “He’ll get loose here soon,” Del Negro said of Paul. “We need him to.” That could be the understatement of the year. Time for CP3 to step up. —Sean Ceglinsky (@seanceglinsky)