Making adjustments is the name of the game in the NBA playoffs, and the Miami Heat combined that factor that comes with good coaching and experience to the ability of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to convert in the most important of moments, leading the Miami Heat to a 87-83 road win in game of the Eastern conference finals, making it a 1-1 series against the Indiana Pacers, who clearly regressed in comparison to their first game, looking quite lost and sheepish in the closing minutes.
This was some impressive offensive execution from the two stars at the end of the game, combined with Chris Bosh doing a bit better in the making shots department, but above everything it was the Heat’s defense as Miami closed the game on a 18-10 run during the final 7:18 minutes. They held the Pacers to 0-of-3 from the field in the final five minutes of the game while the score was within five, and did a tremendous job on both stopping easy points in the paint and handling the pick and roll.
Rebounding was still an issue for the two-time defending NBA champions, allowing 16 offensive rebounds and plenty of extra possessions and time to eat the clock while in the lead for the Indiana Pacers, as Roy Hibbert once again wasted most of his energy early on in the game. He finished with 12 points and 13 rebounds including 8 offensive, but he was far from the dominant player he looked like in game 1, and the same went for almost everyone on the Pacers except for Lance Stephenson, scoring 25 points and providing plenty of the offensive spark for his team.
The big difference seemed to be using Chris Andersen in a lineup with Chris Bosh and doing very well with the second units. The Heat didn’t let the Pacers run away with the game early on and had a lot of success when they had Wade or LeBron James with the bench foursome of Shane Battier, Ray Allen, Norris Cole and Andersen himself, scoring 3 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. The Heat outscored the Pacers by 25 points with Andersen on the court, while losing by 20 with Udonis Haslem, who started, and was terrible on the defensive end.
In terms of scoring this was once again LeBron James and Dwyane Wade doing most of the work. Wade scored 23 points, sleeping through the second and third quarters but doing very well early and late. LeBron James seemed passive all through the game but slowly got his points, turning on his aggressiveness as the game dragged on, finishing with 22 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists. In contrast, the two top scorers for the Pacers didn’t really show up, as Paul George and David West combined to score 24 points on 9-of-32 from the field. What a difference two days make.
As you’d expect great players, the fourth quarter was the best one for them. Wade and James combined to make 9-of-12 shots in the fourth quarter and James suddenly became a lot more involved and efficient. He had 24 touches in the final quarter compared to 39 through the first three; he scored or assisted on 17 of the Heat’s 25 points, while Wade was a perfect 5-for-5 from the field in the quarter, including 4-for-4 in the paint. The duo combined to score 12 points on 5-of-7 from the field in the final five minutes of the game with the score within five.
On defense there was the Andersen effect in the paint, but it was also impressive to see the team’s movement on the rotations and shuffles against the pick and rolls. LeBron James went to guard George Hill which ruined the Pacers’ offensive game, relegated to offensive rebounds and wild Lance Stephenson shots. Miami held Indiana to 29.3% from the field with Andersen on the floor including 3-of-12 from the paint, and lowered their pick & roll efficiency to only 0.92 points per play compared to 1.25 in game 1, dropping their shooting percentage by almost 10% and tripling the amount of turnovers.
The Heat head back home knowing they have what it takes to handle a team that its best are overcoming them physically, but seem to struggle when put in certain situations. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade don’t have to explode in order for the team to win or dominate late; they simply need to play right and get defensive support from their teammates. For Indiana, it’s time to make adjustments, and hope that the limping from Stephenson and Hibbert will be something that goes by quickly, or they’ll be in more trouble very soon.