For the second time in three games, the ability of LeBron James to center the focus on his drives to the basket of almost an entire defense turned Udonis Haslem into an unstoppable scoring machine, while the Miami Heat found one stretch in the third quarter in which they simply couldn’t miss, enough for them to take the lead in the conference finals once again.
The Heat needed a huge game from LeBron James, and they got it. It took him and the rest of the team some time to get into the flow of things on the offensive side, but after weathering the “first quarter” storm that Paul George and Roy Hibbert brought on, it was a matter of making shots, and the Heat, finishing with 50.7% from the field which included eight consecutive jumpers from Udonis Haslem (16 points, 8-of-9 from the field), looking flawless in his shooting for the second time in three games, leading to a 90-79 win and a 3-2 series led.
It all came from James. Going down by four points in the first half, James reportedly let it rip in the dressing room, and it was a completely different Miami Heat team in the second half. James finished with 30 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists, and the Heat are going to need more of that from him in the next game or two in this series, and probably the NBA finals if they make it there, as Dwyane Wade continues to look like a non-factor on too many possessions; his knee limiting his movement and ability to attack the basket more than a few times each game.
It all came down to the final six minutes of the third quarter, as the Heat were feeling that their franchise-record season was at stake (66 wins, 27 game winning streak). James and Haslem combined to score 18 of the Heat’s 21 points during that stretch, all from jumpers, including including a 3-pointer from Chalmers. James himself was 5-of-8 from 15-plus feet in the 3rd quarter and 9-of-18 overall in the game from that distance. The Heat shot 43.9% from that distance in the game, and an interesting fact that in the Big Three era, Miami are 17-1 during the postseason when shooting over 40% from those distances.
The Pick & Roll was at its full effect on Thursday night, with the Heat turning to it on more than 26% of their possessions, scoring 1.08 points per possession. They scored 19 points that way in the third quarter alone, as James’ dominance was well seen, as he scored or assisted on 25 points of the Heat’s 30 during that quarter, being the main reason Haslem looked so good. The Miami Heat kept sending players on him as he drove to the basket, and he always found the right player at the right time to finish the job.
While defensively early on looked like a struggle, the Pacers weren’t exactly lighting it up. Yes, Hibbert and George looked dominant, but the Heat don’t mind only two players being hard to stop, while David West was inconsistent all game long, and George Hill & Lance Stephenson, not for the first time in the series, were completely shut down, combining to score only 5 points on 2-of-11 from the field.
Chris Bosh hasn’t been having the greatest of series, but he finally figured out how to keep Hibbert away from the basket long enough, as the Heat as a team did an excellent job in rebounding, allowing only six by the Pacers, who turned the ball over 17 times, helping the Heat score 22 points off those turnovers.
The scary thing is that James can do more in terms of scoring, but he didn’t have to. The Heat wont through excellent defense which allowed them to pick up the tempo in the third quarter, allowing James to drive to the basket with the Pacers not set for that, creating all those open shots from Haslem and others. It’s going to take the same kind of defensive and offensive execution efficiency, and probably even more, to close out the series on the road in six games.