This was supposed to be an easy series. Everybody liked Indiana, but concurred that they didn’t stand a chance against the mighty Heat. It took a Bosh injury for the Heat to realize that the road back to the NBA finals wouldn’t be as easy as assumed, even with the Bulls out of the way.
In game 3, we saw Indiana crushing the Heat in a 75-94 blowout. Surprisingly, the most astonishing part of the game wasn’t the final result, but Dwyane Wade’s mental breakdown. Coming off a poor 4th quarter in game 2, Wade looked out of it the whole of game 3. Wade scored 5 points on 2-13 shooting, got to the line just twice, and turned the ball over 5 times. During a Heat timeout, Spoelstra let Wade know he wasn’t helping, and Wade seemed to be cursing his coach. Several players tried to calm Wade down, but he didn’t seem to be having any of it. Very uncharacteristic for one of the most professional active basketball players.
While most of the blame for the game 3 loss is on Wade, Miami was struggling all around. James scored 22 points, but got to the line only 4 times. He did a good job of finding teammates out of double-teams and traps, but Miami’s shooters continued the trend of atrocious three-point shooting. Shane Battier missed 6 wide open shots from behind the arc, and James Jones also missed 3 three pointers.
Indiana continued to play solid with Roy Hibbert breaking out for 19 points and 18 big rebounds. Out of Indiana’s starters, 4 scored 14 or more points.
Keys to the game
Right now it’s not as much about what the Pacers are doing, but about Miami’s mindset and resilience. Even without Bosh, Miami has enough to beat the Pacers. To be able to do so Wade and James have to come up big. In game 3 Wade and James were overshadowed by Mario Chalmers who went 10-15 shooting, scoring 25 points, dishing out 5 assists, grabbing 6 rebounds while not turning the ball over even once.
Without Bosh, the margin of error for the Heat is very small. Wade will have to bounce back and be his usual self, and not the man he has been in the last 5 quarters of the series. James has to be more aggressive and get to the line, putting up MVP numbers. Chalmers has to continue being aggressive, abusing the amount of space he gets in the paint to get his floater of. The shooters have to start knocking down shots. Turiaf and Anthony must hustle and be physical. With Bosh in the lineup, Heat could get away with Wade or James taking a night off when the shots weren’t falling, and when the role-players struggled, the big 3 made up for it. Without Chris, everyone has to show up.
Miami must treat this game as a game 7. With a loss tonight Miami would be 1-3 down in the series, giving Pacers 3 games to close them out. A win, on the other hand, would even the series out, hand the home-court advantage back to the Heat and, most importantly, allow Miami to regain some confidence. No one is going to feel sorry for Miami. Elite teams find ways to get through adversity, and that’s what separates elite teams with good teams. This game will show us what the Heat are made of. They have to get it done tonight.