The series will tonight shift to Indianapolis, as Miami will try to close out the series. Winning two straight games, Miami find themselves up 3-2 in the series. The Indiana crowd has been amazing so far, and heading into a hostile environment the Heat will be in for a tough game.
Game 5 was one that the Pacers would rather forget. Miami dominated on all fronts, which resulted in a 32 point (115-83) blowout. It was an ugly game in terms of hard fouls, as the game got seemingly out of control. Udonis Haslem committed a very tough foul on Tyler Hansbrough. Looking at the replay you could clearly see that Haslem wasn’t going for the ball, intending to foul Hansbrough as hard as possible. Udonis will serve a one game suspension, and will not play in game 6. Another Heat player that will serve a suspension, starting with game 6, is Dexter Pittman. In the last few minutes of the game Pittman elbowed Lance Stephenson, and is suspended for 3 games. Lance Stephenson made the choke sign on the sidelines, in game 3, as LeBron James missed a technical free throw. You can only assume that Dexter Pittman wanted to protect James as he fouled Stephenson, but it was an unnecessary and dangerous foul nonetheless.
Keys to the game
So not only will the Heat have to deal with the absence of Chris Bosh, but Dexter Pittman and Udonis Haslem will also be out. For what is an already slim frontcourt of Miami, this certainly doesn’t help. Dexter Pittman hasn’t really played a lot in the playoffs, and it is clear he isn’t ready for the big stage yet. Udonis Haslem, on the other hand, will be sorely missed this game. Following up on his big 14 point performance in game 4, UD scored 10 on 5-6 shooting in game 5, and also grabbed 6 rebounds. The beauty of Haslem is the fact that he almost always provides efficient minutes, whether it is with a little extra edge on offense, crashing the boards, or just making hustle plays in general.
With a banged up Mike Miller, we may very well see LeBron James and Dwyane Wade play 44-46 minutes in the game. Joel Anthony and especially Ronny Turiaf will likely play major minutes in this one. Will the guys run out of gas, or can they sustain through the additional pressure?
Shane Battier came out flaming hot in game 5. Having shot terribly from behind the arc in the series, Battier started the game with two three pointers, adding a third early in the first quarter. He will need to continue putting pressure on the Pacers’ defense by knocking down threes.
Miami have dominated the glass in the last 2 games, out rebounding the Pacers by 49-35 in game 5. Without Haslem, Indiana should have an advantage on the boards tonight. This puts even more pressure on LeBron James to continue rebounding, and picking up the slack.
Wade and James combined for 58 points in game 5, perhaps not as impressive as the 70 point outing in game 4, but still an amazing performance. Can the super duo continue scoring at will and breaking down the Pacers’ defense?
As for Indiana, they will certainly be fueled by their home crowd, and look to make things right after the embarrassing defeat on the road. Larry Bird called his team soft after the loss, so the team will undoubtedly be determined to prove otherwise. Roy Hibbert and David West have to get involved in the offense more, and dominate the paint and the glass, while trying to stay out of foul trouble.
The key for both teams will be starting out strong. Indiana will want to get the ball into the post and get West and Hibbert going early and often. Their height advantage has not been exploited enough thus far in the series. On the other side, it will be key for Miami to involve Shane Battier and Mario Chalmers in the offense early, to take some pressure of the big 2.