1. Where can the Heat improve in Game Three?
Kristopher: Decision making. Game 2 was there for the Heat’s taking. But bad decisions down the stretch led to a blown 4th quarter lead. An ill-advised Bosh 3 in transition. An off-balance Wade floater early in the shot clock. Two huge turnovers by LeBron. If those are cleaned up, Indiana would be down 0-2 , instead of forcing an important split, on the road.
Ehsan: As I pointed out in my article yesterday, the Heat need do a couple of things, but the most important would be causing havoc on defense and scoring some points on the fast break. This and foul trouble are the only ways the Heat can take the Pacers big man, Roy Hibbert out of the game. If they make Hibbert a non-factor on the defensive end, it will pay huge dividends as that will open up the paint for Lebron and Wade all game.
Jae: More toughness in the paint. Roy Hibbert had 29 points (on 10-for-15 shooting) and 10 rebounds. David West had seven rebounds. Lance Stephenson had eight rebounds. The Heat need to be tougher, because the Indiana Pacers are one heck of a tough team.
2. What is the most important matchup for the Heat?
Kristopher: Roy Hibbert vs. the Heat frontcourt. Hibbert was huge down the stretch simply because the Heat had no match for him in terms of raw size. He scored a few easy buckets in the 4th, and there was simply nothing Miami could do about it. Erik Spoelstra has to find a way to keep Hibbert off the glass and limit easy touches down low in order for Miami to bottle up Hibbert.
Ehsan: Chris Bosh-Roy Hibbert. Bosh needs to knock down his patent mid-range jumpers early and often, as well as attack Hibbert with his speed, when he has a driving lane. The Pacers have won this matchup the first two games, but the Heat can steal both games in Indy if they can find a way for Bosh to dictate the matchup with Hibbert. Hibbert may be the more physical player, but with Bosh’s talent, there is no reason for him not to find a way to win this matchup.
Jae: I’m with Kristopher and Ehsan, that Roy Hibbert is an integral piece to the Indiana Pacers, but let’s not forget about Paul George! Went from hero to zero in Game 1 after hitting the game-tying desperation three, only to give up the game-winning layup in overtime (to LeBron, nonetheless). He responded in Game 2 with 22 points, six assists, and a +/- of +17 — along with one of the best dunks of this young series. He’s the Indiana Pacers’ only All-Star and their go-to offensive talent — can anybody stop Paul George? We’re about to find out.
3. Did Game Two change how you view this series?
Kristopher: No. Game 2 was exactly what we saw in Game 1. A tight back-and-forth game full of punches and counter-punches. Now, both fighters have been knocked down once. Miami has been close in both games, despite no absolutely no help from Shane Battier (0-for-7 in this series) and Ray Allen (3-for-13 in this series). If Miami is able to get any production from them (and the other slumping bench players), they’ll be in good shape.
Ehsan: Yes and no. I picked the Heat in five before the series and I am going to stick with that, but I have gained a ton of respect for the Pacers and their emerging superstar, Paul George. I know it won’t be popular, but I venture to say that George is the third best small forward in the game right now, behind Lebron and Durant.
Jae: Like Ehsan, I say yes and no. I’ve been impressed by the Pacers and respect them more as this series goes on. Indiana’s Game 2 win is an accomplishment, for sure, but the Heat have way too much talent to be beaten by the Pacers. The Heat’s bench will start producing at some point in this series (hopefully). And there is no comparison between the Heat’s bench (Ray Allen, Chris Andersen, Norris Cole) and the Pacers’ bench (Sam Young, Tyler Hansbrough, Orlando Johnson, and Ian Mahinmi) — the Heat have so much talent on the sidelines.
4. Who needs to step up the most tonight?
Kristopher: Battier and Allen. The way to beat Indiana is by spacing the floor. That only works when your shooters are making shots. Right now, Battier and Allen aren’t answering that call. They are a combined 3-20 shooting, including 1-12 from three point range. Hard to win when major contributors aren’t excelling in their specialities.
Ehsan: I want to say Dwyane Wade because I want to see nothing more than him playing well, but I will say Chris Bosh for the afore-mentioned reasons. Lebron James is going to play at an MVP-level, but if Wade or Bosh can remember that they are All-Stars, at the very least, the Heat have a decent chance to win the game.
Jae: I’m going with Erik Spoelstra. I loved his designed play at the end of Game 1. Loved it. But how can you let your team blow a four point lead at the end of Game 2? You’re telling me that you don’t have (or can’t execute) four or five plays that are guaranteed to work at the end of games? You’re telling me that you couldn’t tell your team to focus, stay calm, and execute? Because that’s what it looked like at the end of Game 2. The Heat felt the weight of the moment, got tight, and the Indiana Pacers stole Game 2. Spoelstra’s got to do a better job coaching at the end of games.
5. What are your predictions for tonight’s game?
Kristopher: I think Miami responds. They are the defending NBA champions and they beat Indiana last year (in a series the Heat were actually losing, at one point). They know Indiana is no longer afraid of them. But they have 3 of the best 15-20 players in the league, who have been through tough NBA playoff series before. LeBron, Wade, and Bosh are the leaders of this team and they will help Miami regain control of this series.
Ehsan: Lebron James and the Heat will exact some revenge in Game 3, with the Heat retaking control of the series and homecourt advantage. Lebron does his usual 25-8-7, but the Heat get 24 points and 7 rebounds from Chris Bosh. Roy Hibbert picks up two quick fouls in the first quarter due to Bosh’s aggressive play and Hibbert is constantly in foul trouble throughout the game. The Heat win 103-96.
Jae: Much like the Pacers responded in Game 2 to their crushing Game 1 loss, I think the Miami Heat take Game 3. Losing at home was a kick in the rear for the Miami Heat, especially knowing that they blew a late fourth quarter lead. Miami wins Game 3, 95-85.