Post Up: Back to Miami
Indiana evens the series at two with a big home win.
Pacers 99, Heat 92 (Series tied 2-2)
The Indiana Pacers battled back against the Miami Heat to even up the Eastern Conference Finals series in a close game Tuesday night. It’s becoming clear that whichever team can keep their momentum going long enough, and late enough in the game, will win this series.
The Pacers got the win in Game 4 by maintaining their rhythm until the final buzzer, limiting Lebron James’ effectiveness in the post and relentlessly attacking the rim. Indiana started the game off right with an 11-0 run, but Miami battled back behind seven quick points from James.
The Heat took a 48-47 lead into the half after James put in a driving lay-up. James showed a little extra emotion after the play, getting in his defensive stance to counter a play that had only 0.4 seconds to be executed. He could have been looking to get a spark out of his teammates.
Whatever motivation ensued during halftime, it worked as the Heat came out with good ball movement and smothering defense to begin the third quarter and took control of the game. After Mario Chalmers hit a jump shot with just over seven minutes left to go in the third, the Heat officially let the air out of Bankers Life Fieldhouse, and an amped up crowd was suddenly silent.
But Indiana was able to counter Miami’s attack with a push of their own, going on an 8-0 run over the next three minutes, a theme for the Pacers on this night. Lance Stephenson’s good side definitely showed up as he put up 20 points on 9-15 shooting, including a clutch buzzer beater at the end of the third quarter.
When TNT’s Craig Sager asked Roy Hibbert about Stephenson’s contributions to the team’s success following the win, he said, “When he plays like that, we’re unstoppable. There’s no defense for what he can do in transition.”
Lebron battled back for the Pacers late in the fourth quarter, playing excellent defense on George Hill, while hitting open jumpers from beyond the arc to tie the game up at 83-83 with six minutes left to go. But each team got into serious foul trouble by the end, with foul issues becoming critical for the Heat in particular in the closing minutes.
After hitting a clutch three from the corner with a minute left to go to bring the game within four points, Lebron James committed his sixth and final foul, eliminating any possibility of his late-game heroics. Without Lebron on the floor, head coach Erik Spoelstra was left to draw up a play for either Ray Allen who had hit an impressive shot a few minutes earlier, or his ailing co-star Dwayne Wade. He chose Wade, who came up empty and the Pacers held on to even the series at 2-2.
George Hill played well for Indiana scoring 19 points, hitting 9-10 from the foul line while dishing out six assists. Paul George helped orchestrate the offense when he was on the floor dropping 12 points and grabbing eight boards.
The battle down low went to the Pacers. Chris Bosh, Udonis Haslem and Chris Anderson all struggled for the Heat, combining for only 13 points and seven rebounds. In stark contrast, Hibbert scored a team-high 23 points and added 12 boards, while David West put up 14 and 12. West and Hibbert continually came up with big offensive rebounds and were able to keep seemingly dead possessions alive.
Looking forward, Hibbert isn’t taking his eyes off the prize. In a post game interview, he preached perseverance, “We’re not going anywhere. We’re going back down to Miami to go out there and fight again.”—Daniel Friedman
Game 5 will be played Thursday night in American Airlines Arena in Miami. 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.