It’s easy to win games when you don’t turnover the ball and simply can’t stop missing. LeBron James didn’t have the best game of his career, but he made the biggest impact during his time on the court, not just leading the Miami Heat to an impressive win in game 3 through exceptional offensive basketball that Udonis Haslem look like the top marksman in the league, while making sure Paul George remembered who the real Alpha-Male in this series is.
The Miami Heat couldn’t miss, and the Pacers simply couldn’t keep up. There were moments in the third and fourth quarter when they had gotten close, but they didn’t get defensive stops, and the Heat, relying on their incredible 70 points at halftime, finished with a demoralizing 114-96 win in Indiana.
The game ends and begins with the Pacers, one of the best defensive teams in the NBA as they have shown through the playoffs and especially at home against the Knicks, giving up 70 points at halftime. The last time a team scored 70 points in the first half of a playoff game: May 11, 2007, and the most the Pacers have given up in a playoff game since 1992. Their offense is clicking with George Hill in form, Roy Hibbert being hard to stop and David West making the most of the mismatches. And yet they weren’t even close for most of the game.
The big surprise was Udonis Haslem, who had a total of 3 points in the series entering the game. The Heat began with excellent spacing and ball movement, as James learned his lesson and stopped bouncing the ball aimlessly, trying to find a way through both Paul George and Roy Hibbert. He backed up George only when intending to drive to the basket through the post, and otherwise created chances for others. Haslem ended up scoring 17 points on 8-of-9 from the field, almost all of them from the exact same spot.
Chris Bosh was also very successful in those long jumpers (finishing with 15 points) combining with Haslem to shoot 8-of-11 from further than 15 feet. Eventually, Roy Hibbert was drawn away from the basket to try and block them, but he didn’t succeed in that, and gave up too much space for the Heat, who shot 70.3% from the paint, scoring 52 points.
The talk of Dwyane Wade injuries might be true, and he might not be as explosive as before, but he’s hardly making any mistakes. He scored 18 points, finishing with 8 assists and had a couple of big blocks, showing everyone that his hops are still there, he just uses them a little more carefully now.
And there was LeBron James, who shot “only” 8-17 from the field, but abused Paul George on the post and defensively. He finished with 22 points, 12 of them coming while posting up on George, usually slipping to his left. Prior to the game, he was only 40% on post-up moves, but hit 7 of his 11 shots while posting up against the Pacers in game 3.
Defensively? Even better. George scored only 13 points on 3-of-10 from the field, and hitting only 25% of his attempts when James was guarding him, often forcing him to shoot from beyond 20 feet from the basket. The Heat’s bench, with another perfect performance from Chris Andersen, who has yet to miss a shot in this series, outscored the Pacers bench, especially during the important minutes of the game. The ball is back in the champions’ court, thanks to a performance that was inspired by the struggles the Pacers put them through in the first couple of games.