I’ll try to be succinct.
Final score: 98-86 (23-25, 22-17, 31-20, 22-24)
Key team stats: Turnovers — Indiana 16, Miami 9; Rebounds — Indiana 31, Miami 40
Key individual stats: LeBron James — 36 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assists; Mario Chalmers — 13 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists; Paul George — 22 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists; Roy Hibbert — 5 points, 1 rebound; George Hill — 0 points, 0 shots
Season series tied 2-2
New standings: Miami 54-25, Indiana 54-26
Remaining games: Miami — @Atlanta, @Washington, Philadelphia; Indiana — OKC, @Orlando (Indiana holds tiebreaker)
– Shouldn’t be too surprised by the loss. Pacers aren’t a good road team, Miami was 31-8 at home heading into the game, and the Pacers have been playing like garbage for a long time now. It could have been a lot worse, but Wade was out with a hamstring injury, the Pacers starters had some rest, and the Pacers always play above their normal standard against the Heat. It just wasn’t enough.
– It was a fairly even game apart from the first four-and-a-half minutes of the third quarter, when the Heat scored the first 16 points to turn a 3-point halftime lead to a 19-point blowout. The Pacers could get as close as 8 when LeBron took a seat early in the fourth, but the result was never really in doubt.
– The Pacers bench did all that could be asked of it today. Luis Scola had 12 points and 5 rebounds, mitigating some of his defensive lapses (LeBron salivates when Scola ends up guarding him); CJ Watson was solid with 10 points; Ian Mahinmi was solid on the defensive end. Only Evan Turner, who had just 3 points on 5 shots, should have done more.
– This loss goes to Roy Hibbert and George Hill. Hibbert apparently had a great practice and was looking to get his game back on track. Instead, he didn’t score until 4 minutes left in the third quarter and didn’t grab his first and only rebound until garbage time. This was the same guy who used to dominate the Heat’s smaller lineup every time. Inexcusable. George Hill was worse. To not take a single shot in 33 minutes? It’s good when a player “plays within the system”, but this is ridiculous. Hill should be better than Mario Chalmers. He needs to take a long hard look in the mirror.
– What this game shows is that the Heat, despite all their troubles, are the team to beat in the East as long as they have LeBron James. And this is even if the Pacers end up with the first seed. Those four minutes at the beginning of the second half were scary. The Heat have that extra gear that can push them to play near-perfect basketball for key stretches, and the Pacers don’t. It’s as simple as that. Doesn’t mean the Pacers can’t win in a 7 game series if they get back to playing their best basketball, but the odds will always be in the Heat’s favor.
– The Pacers will get another chance to prove themselves against OKC on a Sunday matinee. The Thunder are the worst matchup for the Pacers in the entire league, so if both Durant and Westbrook are playing it could mean saying goodbye to the first seed for good. The Heat can’t possibly lose against Philly, but they could lose one of the road games against the Hawks or Wizards, so the Pacers really need to do whatever they can to win those last two games. Personally, I’d just like to see them play good, confident basketball heading into the playoffs.