Best Giveaway Night ever was at the AAA in Miami Tuesday Night. Random Pacers fans were selected to play 48 minutes of Playoff Basketball with the HEAT in front of a sell-out crowd, and if they won they get an all-expenses paid trip back to Miami to do it again!
Imagine the Fan’s surprise when they actually won! A real Price-Is-Right Moment!
Cynical, yes. Tuesday’s playoff game resembled more of an amateur-night (more like an amateur karaoke-night) than a Game 2 in the second round of the Playoffs, both teams shot uber-poorly with a 78-75 end result going the Pacer’s way.
The spotlight was on Miami though, with the HEAT’s big question going in to game 2 being how well they would cope with Bosh’s “indefinitely” injury status. Would they miss the 14.7 Points and 6.8 rebounds he averaged in the Playoffs thus far? Final Answer: YOU BET. His absence tonight, and lack of fill-in for his defense and overall scoring contributions gave the HEAT their first lesson on how much Big #1 means in the NBA Playoffs.
Lots of right-and-wrong (unfortunately more wrong, lots, lots more wrong), getting right into it then:
Starting with what went right, it was a defensive battle the first half with the HEAT leading the charge. They set the tempo and really got grounded in the 2nd quarter. Rony Touriaf started in place of the injured Bosh, which after a slow-start, an early turnover, foul, then total-wiff at an inbound no-look pass from James began to tee-up Hibbert and the Pacers attack with blocks and rebounds. Overall, the HEAT fashioned a lead up to 11 in the first half, getting quality minutes from 9 players in rotation, ending with 10 players for the night (Balance of bench included Norris Cole, Joel Anthony, Shane Battier, and Mike Miller in the First Quarter alone). The rotation definitely kept the Pacers on their toes, and set an early tempo forcing turnovers with their do-it-all defense. End result of the night, Pacers shot 38% from the floor with 20 turnovers, which in most cases spells “win” for the HEAT any other night.
So, what went wrong for the HEAT?
1. Player Rotation: The HEAT managed to screw up everything that went well in the first half in the second half. Plagued first by foul trouble, Mario Chalmers was a frequent entrance and exit, picking up 2 fouls early in the 1st quarter, and getting his 4th foul early in the 3rd (thus the reason for Cole’s entry, early and often.). From the start of the 2nd half, the smart rotation they were using went out the window, rolled down the street and got hit by a bus. Rony Touriaf did not re-enter in the 2nd half (WHY???), HEAT stayed with their original 8-man squad in/out, and opted to go Uber-Small adding James Jones; end result was a hodge-podge brand of Offense that could not get anything organized the entire night.
2. Ball Rotation; Slow and ineffective is the best way to describe it kindly. In actuality, it was like witnessing a Greek Tragedy unfold, knowing the guy in the Toga is going to get the knife any second. 35% shooting is not HEAT Basketball (barely NBA Basketball, Really). Credit the Pacers defensively- although a byproduct of Bosh being out, they were able to manage the perimeter well all night, giving away only a few good-looks to Miller, Battier and Mario Chalmers. That extra step that Bosh takes from defenses is SO CRITICAL; if it even causes an extra step a defender has to take to the perimeter to rotate and cover a shot, it is the difference between being open and guarded.
3. Wade/James Tandem-Average at best, They combined for 52 Points on 18-44 shooting, which might qualify as a great outing by Carmelo Anthony, but not Wade/MVP James. They could not convert critical free throws late in the 4th, but most disappointing they allowed this bleeping circus to continue for 48 minutes without an answer or gaining the winning result. In all counts, a 3 point game against the HEAT, where the team with the lead is shooting 30-couple-percent, sorry, that needs to become a win no matter what. Especially in the Playoffs. At Home no-less. The Pain!
4. Bench Play-For what is expected, far below the line of expectations which is becoming a small habit. Poor from the floor offensively, 4-16 for 11 points. They are doing it on D (and doing it well, overall), but the ‘O needs to get rolling. Rapidly.
4. Mario Chalmers-Final Shot: Let that marinate for a second, perhaps the 3 most terrible words a HEAT fan can hear. Chalmers. Final. Shot. Yech. Although the correct call, James/Wade couldn’t shoot well for most of the night outside the paint, when Chalmers is your best option to tie the game with a 3…not good.
While it would have felt great to head into Indianapolis and face the Pacers, their backs against the wall and a 2-0 deficit, the HEAT now will have to regroup and rethink strategy. Although statistically, the same result horribly- poor result by the HEAT is pretty close to impossible to replicating, it is a wake-up call that the Championship they are chasing gets further away with every giveaway night they allow. On to Indianapolis Thursday for a fresh start, Chris Bosh-you are missed!