The Pacers did what they will have to do to compete in this series – they persevered.
The Heat did what all the “haters” wanted them to do – they played unbalanced basketball.
In the epitome of a grind-it-out game in which both teams shot under 40 percent for the game, the Indiana Pacers came out on top against the Miami Heat, 78-75, to tie the series 1-1 as these teams head to Indianapolis for Game 3.
As much as this game can be entirely focused on the Chris Bosh-less Miami Heat, the fact that the team’s third highest scorer behind LeBron James and Dwyane Wade had five points and that James is now 10-17 on free throws in one-possession games with under a minute to go in games this season, this No. 3 seeded Pacers team deserves credit for what they did on the basketball court Tuesday night.
When the Dallas Mavericks took down the Heat last season, the national media turned it into a Heat collapse instead of a Mavs victory. Those champions deserved recognition for winning a championship (Yes, I might be a fan, but the point is still valid), and even though the Pacers haven’t come even close to attaining that type of achievement, they still deserve their time in the limelight.
The key moment for the Pacers came in the 4th quarter with 4:11 to go in the game. After a Wade bank shot, the Heat took a 72-71 lead, erasing an 11-point deficit the team faced earlier in the second half. This has been the point in the playoffs (so far) when the Heat players go into another zone and crack down on the defensive end while their superstars finish the job on the other end.
In Game 1, the Pacers controlled the majority of the game but were unable to close late in the game. Many attributed this fall to their inexperience in the playoffs and the Heat’s overall superiority to them.
With a loss looking to be inevitable as all the criticism about the team not having a number one guy started to spout on Twitter, the Pacers chose to fight. And fight hard.
Yes, Indiana had missed free throws and unexecuted plays down the stretch, but none of this matters since they got the one thing that does matter: the win. Frank Vogel’s squad did what was necessary to tie up a series that most of the nation deemed over before either team stepped onto the court to play one another. This is now as competitive a series could be.
There is no way to point out one player from the Pacers that plowed the way toward a win. They had five more players than the Heat that scored six or more points. They had three players grab 10 or more rebounds while the Heat had none. These teams couldn’t have gotten to their respective scores in more differing ways.
Even though no Pacer scored more than 16 points, it doesn’t matter and shouldn’t arise as a problem going forward. Why? They played for each other and strung together enough points and enough stops to put their team in a position to turn the Heat from a happy-go-lucky team to a glum group. They did just that. They handed the Heat their first Eastern Conference home playoff loss since the Big 3 came together.
Each player on Indiana knows what part he must play in order to bring their team the best chance to succeed. With David West’s sudden play that is reminiscent of his all-star play in New Orleans, this team has the necessary pieces to compete with anybody. Seriously.
The experience that a contending team needs can be found in David West, George Hill and Leandro Barbosa, scrappy play consistently comes from Paul George (a five-tool basketball players as he can score, rebound, pass, steal and block), Roy Hibbert and Darren Collison, and their unheralded leadership remains in Danny Granger. Compare that to the Heat who currently have a group of players behind LeBron and Wade that seem to have forgotten what it is like to play a role.
Now, this series is no where close to being in the hands of Pacers. A series is not won in one game. Even though they currently have home-court advantage, it will be extremely tough to take down the Heat three times in a row, which is the only way for the Pacers to sustain this edge. (The Mavericks won three games in a row last year to defeat the Heat, so it can be done.)
But they have the capability to do this. When you hear these players talk about their team and this series, they have a resolved mindset that they aquired from their head coach. They spoke out before the series started and now have backed up that smack talk. (Jason Terry understands what they are doing.) They act as though they have a mission to not simply establish themselves by means of these playoffs and get some deserved respect but to truly reach for the peak of the Larry O’Brien mountain.
Danny Granger isn’t afraid. Roy Hibbert isn’t afraid. Paul George isn’t afraid.
The team that had the fifth best record in the regular season isn’t afraid to lock horns with the Hollywood of Hollywood teams that have two of the best players currently in the game. This fierce mentality showed itself Tuesday as many scuffles broke out throughout the battle.
As the series shifts to Indianapolis for two games, the Pacers can’t allow their home crowd to make them feel comfortable. They need to continue to bump and harass this Heat team to take this unexpected victory into expected consistency. They need to continue to play defense and rebound as if they expect to win and not as if they expect to just compete.
With this approach along with hard play from every single player that steps onto the floor in a yellow and white uniform, the Pacers have the ability to win Game 3 and win this series.
No, I am not crazy. Yes, I am a believer in team basketball…
which the Heat do not currently possess and the Pacers do. Game on.
Ignite the Site!