The road team won a game, which means the series has officially started. The Miami Heat defeated the Indiana Pacers 87-83 to tie the Eastern Conference Finals 1-1.
That was quite the little roller coaster, right?
It wasn’t pretty, but the Heat turned up the intensity on defense in the fourth quarter, with a little bit of a reality check from the Pacers offense.
How did we get here? I’m here to answer that.
Things that pleased me:
*Bad Russian Accent* “Pay him…pay that man his money.”
- Teddy KGB, on Dwyane Wade.
(OK, that’s probably Wade saying that. But work with me.)
Contrary to what Bill Simmons says, Dwayne Wade is alive and well. Has he always needed to be 2009 Dwyane Wade, the year he led the league in scoring and should have been the MVP? Not at all. However, he showed that he can have that attack mentality and carry the team when needed. He was spectacular. He scored 23 points, on 10-of-16 shooting, with five assists and five rebounds. He held the fort until LeBron James got going in the fourth.
Also, Norris Cole made his presence felt, with 11 points off the bench. His most important contribution was his defense on Lance Stephenson in the fourth quarter, only giving up two points. The rest of the defense matched that intensity and helped carry the Heat home.
Things that annoyed me: Stephenson can be pretty annoying. I can’t wait for someone to give him a max contract. My bet is on Cleveland. That’s such a Cavs signing.
But the sluggish effort on defense early for Miami really was frustrating, with LeBron falling asleep on the perimeter as Paul George and C.J. Watson (?!?) were cutting to the basket. Then there’s the Stephenson tip-in before the half that James wasn’t paying attention to. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra later switched LeBron to George Hill to conserve energy, then gave him a quick breather in the 4th, before allowing James to be the vengeful God that he can be.
There’s also Roy Hibbert getting rebounds while surrounded by Heat players. There’s one thing to be shorter than Hibbert, but it’s another when you’re just not fighting for the ball. Thankfully, Chris Andersen grabbed 12 rebounds to help close the rebounding edge to 41-38, Indiana.
Things that perplexed me: Do the Pacers care about concussions? George said that he blacked out after taking Wade’s knee to the back of his head. He also said that he suffered a concussion. Am I the only person alarmed by that?
Hibbert also looked woozy after taking that elbow from LeBron in March, went to the locker room, and then came back out to finish the game. I’m not a doctor, but that seems quick to determine if someone is concussed or not.
Now Forbes has an article about how the Pacers rushed George back into the game, which went against the league’s concussion protocols. Even though it’s a big game, Indy has to do what’s right in regards to player safety. Personally, I hope George is fine for Game 3. I hate to see players get hurt. Especially when concussions are involved.
Scale of 1-to-10, How badly did you want to throw a lamp because of Mario Chalmers?: 6. Poor Mario had a rough night. He played under 24 minutes and had five turnovers. Then he watched Cole play the entire fourth quarter. If this were high school, Chalmers would definitely turn Cole’s backpack inside out. He still might do that.
On the plus side, Chalmers hit both of his 3s, so he has something to build on. Knowing him, he looked at the box score, noticed Miami won by four and thought to himself “My six points were the difference. They couldn’t have done it without me *fist pump*”. Chalmers is the best.
What we learned: Aside from Wade still being a good player? The fact that there was a regression to the mean. Pacers shot 40 percent as opposed to 51 percent in Game 1. The free throw disparity also wasn’t ridiculous (Miami had an 18-15 edge; Game 1 saw Indiana have a 37-15 advantage).
Biggest thing is that the Pacers can’t rely on their bench for long stretches to provide any sort of offense. They were outscored 21-6 in Game 1, and 20-9 in Game 2. This means that Indiana coach Frank Vogel is going to have to work his starters extended minutes, and they looked exhausted in the fourth quarter.
It also helps that last night Miami had the two best players on the court, as Wade and LeBron combined to outscore the Pacers 24-23, from the 2:45 mark in the third quarter.
Panic meter: 0. Series is 1-1, going back to Miami. That’s all the Heat could ask for. Pressure falls on Indiana to steal one on the road.
Your move, Pacers.