Things we’ll remember from the Miami Heat getting their version of regular season vengeance against the Indian Pacers? Dwyane Wade having a night to remember, LeBron James playing on a bad ankle, and in between big plays getting into a big argument with Mario Chalmers on the bench, later apologizing for his outburst.
Focusing on basketball, that little skirmish seems to be nothing. James didn’t like Chalmers talking back to him, but realized he behaved badly shortly after. The Heat actually started playing better from that moment after falling 14 points behind. They outscored the Pacers 48-31 to clinch the victory 97-94 in a game that was very much like most of their series against the Pacers last season: Indiana leading most of the way and then the Heat take it up another notch. Ray Allen hitting a big three in the fourth quarter to finish a fast break put them in the lead. LeBron James breathing down Paul George’s neck as the Pacers star went up for the final shot of the game made just enough of a difference to keep the win in Miami.
The battle of who is the best in the East won’t be decided until the two meet once again in the Eastern conference finals. However, after already losing once in Indiana, avoiding the pressure and nuisance of the media talking about changing of the guards or crisis in Miami, it was a good thing for James to play on his bad ankle and give just about enough in the final push in order to set everyone’s mind at ease.
Dwyane Wade led the Heat with 32 points, as the team focused on him. He finished with 15-of-25 from the field and had no problem scoring against Lance Stephenson or anyone else the Pacers were sending at him. However, the most important job was done by James. He scored “only” 24 points, adding 9 rebounds, 7 assists and 3 steals, but almost everything good that happened to the Heat in the fourth quarter on both ends of the floor came through him. He either scored or assisted on 15 of the Heat’s 26 points in the 4th quarter. He also did an excellent job on George, denying him the ball on two of the final three possessions. George once against struggled when James was guarding him, going 3-of-9 from the field, turning the ball over twice. Very similar to the first game between the two this season.
The Heat can’t bank only on their own players doing a great job in the end. Roy Hibbert getting into foul trouble, as the Heat played aggressively from the start, helped make things easier later on. Hibbert spent only 23 minutes on the floor, scoring six points. They scored an overall 50 points in the paint (the most Indiana allowed this season), most of them coming when Hibbert was sitting on the bench.
Even without him, the tandem of David West and Paul George made things plenty difficult, combining to score 48 points. The problem was no one else on the team was playing well in the second half, as the two scored 33 of the 42 points by the Pacers in the final 24 minutes, with their teammates shooting 27.3% from the field.
With this win, the Heat might have found out the way to pierce the Pacers’ armor – Have James guard George and not help out, and keep attacking Hibbert until he eventually fouls out. It’s not a bulletproof plan, but it’s not the first time it has worked.