NBA: Playoffs-Indiana Pacers at Miami Heat

Pacers waste hot start, bench play, lose 99-87 to fall down 2-1

It was looking good for a little while in the first quarter when the Indiana Pacers got off to a hot 17-4 start. But complacency and a few frustrating whistles helped Miami get back into it to be down just 21-14 at the end of the first quarter.

In the second, the Pacers bench stepped up, with Luis Scola finally making a contribution and CJ Watson and Ian Mahinmi both doing solid (we even got the first Evan Turner sighting this series), but the Heat kept eating away at it and appeared to have the momentum at the half despite being down 42-38.

The second half was a completely different story as D-Wade just picked apart the Pacers defense. A lot of bad calls were made at both ends which slowed the pace down to a crawl. While Miami adjusted their offensive schemes, the Pacers lost their way and their rhythm. They were hesitant, stagnant and sloppy, turning the ball away and not executing on offense. Every offensive set was a predictable race against the shot clock and usually ended in a bad shot. At the same time, Roy Hibbert forgot he was 7’2″ again and missed a bunch of easy shots at the rim and got the ball poked away on just about every damn possession.

When Wade hit a three to end the third quarter and another one to open the fourth, the Heat lead had ballooned to 10. The Pacers would grind their way back within 2 a few minutes later, but from there it was the Ray Allen show. He was on fire, largely due to Vogel’s decision to put David West on him due to the matchups, and Jesus Shuttlesworth knocked down 4-4 threes, with the final one stretching the lead to 15 with 2:49 left in the game. The Pacers showed a little more creativity and movement on offense after that, but it was too little too late.

Final score, 99-87. Miami takes a 2-1 lead in the series, handing the Pacers consecutive losses for the first time this postseason. Miami also maintained its perfect home record these playoffs at 6-0. Paul George had 17 on 5-13 shooting, Hibbert had 16 but just 2 rebounds, West had 13 but didn’t do much after the first quarter, and Stephenson had 10, 11 and 5 but was shut down in the second half. George Hill was mired in foul trouble and had 8 points in 21 minutes.

LeBron finished with a controlled 26, 4 and 7, while Wade had 23 on 9-16 shooting. Ray Allen hit all 4 of his field goals (all threes) in the fourth and ended up with 16. Chris Bosh was a no-show again with 9 points and 5 fouls, but they didn’t need him to win handily.

As a team, the Pacers had 17 turnovers and shot just 6-21 from three-point range. Their touted defense also allowed Miami to shoot 54.4% from the field, the third time this series the Heat have breached the 50% mark.

Full credit to the Heat for figuring it out midway through the game after going down by 15 early, in particular in limiting Stephenson’s aggressiveness and David West’s effectiveness. Some really bad calls against Paul George kept him in foul trouble for most of the game (at least 2 of the first 3 were complete BS), but no one made him miss his free throws as he went just 6-10, and even some of the makes were roll-ins. The concussion is a good excuse for this game, but PG really has to step up if the Pacers are going to have a chance next game. The “superstar chasm” opened up by LeBron and Wade over PG this series has been alarming.

So it’s back to the drawing board for Frank Vogel, who has been outcoached by his counterpart Erik Spoelstra so far in this series. Vogel said after the game that his team still has a lot of fight left, but that fight was nowhere to be found in the second half tonight. I felt the Pacers really needed to get this win to stand a chance in the series, as they will need to win two in a row from the Heat from this point (likely games 4 and 5) and that will be extremely difficult to do. That said, they have bounced back from adversity numerous times this postseason and we’ll see Monday whether they’ve got what it takes.

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