Admit it. You thought there was a good chance the Pacers would lay an egg tonight. But we forgot they were playing Miami, and the Heat always bring out the best in Indiana.
The Pacers were in scintillating form tonight while the Heat were passive, and the result was a wire-to-wire 107-96 victory that wasn’t really that close. There were signs that the Heat might just turn it up and come storming back at times in the third and fourth quarters, but each and every time the Pacers had an answer and weathered the storm. Maybe all that adversity in the first two rounds of the playoffs has made them stronger after all.
It was a complete team effort. The ball movement was crisp, with everyone on the floor making the extra pass. Miami had their fair share of defensive breakdowns, but I’d like to think the Pacers had something to do with that. The offensive output of 107 points was their highest since Feb 25 against the Los Angeles Lakers (118). They shot 51.5% from the field and hit 8 of their 19 three-point attempts. They played smashmouth basketball, getting to the line 37 times (converting 29), compared to just 10 of 15 attempts for the Heat. Most of all, they only had 12 turnovers.
All five starters were in double figures. Paul George led with 24 points, 4 rebounds and 7 assists. Lance Stephenson was huge with 17 and 8 assists. George Hill was hot early and finished with an aggressive 15, and was strangely the only starter without an assist. David West provided buckets when needed and had 19, 7 and 3 on 8-11 shooting. And Roy Hibbert was big, literally and figuratively, going for 19, 9 and 3 with a block and about a dozen changed shots.
Off the bench, CJ Watson contributed with 11, and the only other guy who scored was Luis Scola with 2. Interestingly, Evan Turner got a DNP (a mysterious strep throat, apparently), with Rasual Butler getting inconsequential 9 minutes instead. The starters played heavy minutes tonight (34-41 minutes across the board) and will continue to do so throughout the series, but it’s a luxury to not have too big of a drop off when Frank Vogel goes to the bench.
For the Heat, D-Wade and LeBron were in fine form. Wade had 27 on 11-18 shooting and LeBron had a very quiet 25, 10 and 5 by his standards. The rest of the Heatles starters struggled though, with Chris Bosh in particular scoring just 9 on 4-12 shooting and missing all 5 of his three-point attempts.
It’s easy to get carried away with just one game, and in truth this was a game the Pacers had to win to stand a chance. The Heat played passively and didn’t make the Pacers uncomfortable like we thought they would. They’ll make adjustments and come back a lot stronger, and what should also be noted is that the Pacers made their open jumpers tonight and didn’t foul a whole lot. That won’t happen every night either. The only major surprise was that both teams shot well and scored a lot of points, though I expect that as the series progresses we might see more games in the 80s.
Game 2 is going to be HUGE for Indiana. If they get the W it means Miami will need to win 4 out of 5 to advance, and that’s not easy, especially if the Pacers keep playing like they did in game one.