You expect the NBA champions and more experienced team to close out a series in a game 6, but it was the younger and for now better team, the Indiana Pacers, who came out with the win, forcing yet another conference final clash, with Paul George and Roy Hibbert getting the kind of help they’ve been waiting for from David West, who went from awful to excellent after being reduced to tears.
Or maybe it was George Hill scoring 16 points, showing that his ability to hit big shots (2-0f-4 from beyond the arc) is what determines how good the Pacers offense will be. The point guard had only one point in the previous game, but his ball movement, along with the rest of the team, kept the Miami Heat’s defense far from its usual effectiveness, leading to one huge third quarter (29-15), and a win that made it 3-3 in the series, 91-77.
Roy Hibbert continues to be a massive influence, especially early in the game, when the wear & tear of 42 minutes doesn’t make him a lot less effective (although the score didn’t show it in the second half thanks to David West forgetting about his awful 0-for-7 in the first half). He finished with 24 points and 11 rebounds, keeping the Heat on only nine field goals from inside 5-feet, their second-worst performance of the season.
And the Pacers keeping two big men on the court at all times had Erik Spoelstra flinching, keeping two “big men” of his own on the court at all times as well, pretty much destroying the Heat’s offense, which didn’t have much to offer anyway. With Joel Anthony and Udonis Haslem playing big minutes, the Pacers had a lot less to worry about than usual, while Shane Battier played in only 4 minutes.
The Pacers have the Heat where they want him – playing only through LeBron James. No quick ball movement, hardly any transition offense, despite Indiana committing 18 turnovers. Dwyane Wade tried to guard Paul George on too many possessions, and it was simply an unfair fight, as George finished with 28 points, including 5-of-7 from the field for 13 points when Wade was guarding him, compared to 1-of-4 from the field when James was guarding him.
More than individual elevations, the Pacers simply played good team basketball. They moved the ball well and quickly, and the only times it did get stuck was when Lance Stephenson got his hands on it, finishing with only 4 points and 4 turnovers, but adding 12 rebounds and 4 assists. They attacked the Heat early, which resulted in a lot of open looks and misses during the first half from very easy situations. The Pacers ended up shooting 50% from the field, including 6-of-11 from beyond the arc.
For those looking for some sort of conspiracy with the referees, it’s not coming this time. There were some weird calls here and there, but almost all the 50-50 came favoring the Pacers, including that offensive foul on LeBron James as Hibbert blocked his way to the basket. Maybe someone really wanted there to be a game 7, but that’s taking away from the credit the Pacers deserve, who made everyone on the Heat except James and Mike Miller look bad all game long.
Are the Indiana Pacers a better team? If Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade keep playing like that, then yes. Because LeBron James might erupt for a legendary game in game 7, which has happened in the past, but the Pacers seem to have an advantage across the board throughout this series, and seem to be on the right path to the NBA finals as long as they get a good performance from at least three of their starters each night.