The Indiana Pacers were one quarter away from going where no team had ever gone before – into a Game 3 with a 2-0 lead on the Big Three-led Miami Heat.
The Pacers held a 63-62 edge heading into Game 2’s final frame and looked to have a shot at closing the game out on the inspired play of Lance Stephenson, but then it was none other than the brutal combination of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade that put the Heat on their back for old time’s sake and came out of Indiana with the 1-1 split.
Both LeBron and D-Wade had their share of struggles throughout the contest. Wade started the game well, but then went on a scoring drought in the middle that lasted roughly half the game. LeBron, on the other hand, looked tired for the majority of the contest and downright lazy on a number of defensive possessions. It seemed as though the miles accumulated in four seasons, three Finals runs and an Olympics were taking their toll on the usually dominant Big Three (Chris Bosh finished with only 9 points and 6 rebounds himself), but then they found that proverbial switch and flicked it on.
That’s right, the famous on-off switch. The Miami Heat have looked unbeatable more often than not over the last four seasons, but they’ve also shown signs of fatigue and even complacency at times. The story goes, however, that they get the important stops and baskets when it counts and, to wit, they’ve only ever lost one Playoff series together as a team (the 2011 Finals against the Mavs) and have never even trailed more than a single game in one (unless you count them losing to the Mavs 4-2). This also marked the fifth time that they’ve gone down 0-1 in a series and the fifth time they’ve responded by winning Game 2.
And it all almost didn’t happen until that fourth quarter. In the final frame, James and Wade combined for the majority of Miami’s output.
|Rest of Team||3||1||5||20.0%||2|
Other than a three-pointer by Norris Cole, LeBron and Wade combined for all of the Heat’s points in the fourth and actually outscored the Pacers (who only scored 20 as a team) by themselves. In fact, as pointed out by Tom Haberstroh, James and Wade scored or assisted on the Heat’s final 33 points. James finished with a sexy line of 22 points on 9 of 18 from the field, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals, and 3 blocks, while Wade put up an equally attractive 23 points on 10 of 16 shooting, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and 1 steal. They, along with solid contributions from Cole (11 points, +14) and Chris “Birdman” Andersen (12 boards, +25), willed the Heat to this win.
On the other end, the Pacers were unable to achieve the balanced attack that helped them win Game 1. They got a great performance from Stephenson, who may have earned himself a few extra dollars this offseason with the best playoff game of his career, scoring 25 points on 10 of 17 shooting, while adding 6 boards and 7 assists. Roy Hibbert also had one of his “good Roy” games, putting up 12 points, 13 rebounds, and 1 blocked shot.
The Pacers didn’t, however, get the best possible games out of Paul George (14 points on 4 of 16 shooting) and David West (10 points on 5 of 16 shooting). George and West’s combined 9 of 32 shooting from the field (28.1%) served as the antithesis to James and Wade’s contributions and was likely the difference in this ball game.
George suffered what appeared to be a concussion to just about anyone who has ever heard of such a thing after a head-on-knee collision with Dwyane Wade, and Stephenson and Hibbert both looked hobbled at different points in the game. With three days of rest in between Games 2 and 3, the Pacers will need to get those three right and West will have to go back to his ways of being an all-around key cog if the Pacers hope to keep the dream of dethroning the two-time defending champs alive.
The Pacers have been talking about how important home-court advantage would be in this series since they lost Game 7 in Miami in last season’s Eastern Conference Finals. After scraping and clawing to have that all-important first seed and home-court against the Heat this year, it has evaporated in what boils down to a single quarter. They may have missed their golden opportunity to step on the throat of the beast and our algorithms reflect just how much this loss meant to them.
|Before||After Game 1||After Game 2
|Pacers ECF Odds||47.35%||61.86%||42.21%|
|Pacers Champs Odds||17.57%||23.52%||15.81%|
|Heat ECF Odds||52.65%||38.14%||57.79%|
|Heat Champs Odds||23.41%||15.97%||24.51%|
The Heat came in as the favorites in this series, but only barely as a result of being the road team. After the Pacers won Game 1, the odds shifted by almost 15% from the original line to then favor Indiana. It made enough sense, with three games remaining on each home floor and the Pacers only needing three more wins to Miami’s four. A Game 2 win and a 2-0 lead would’ve undoubtedly raised those odds even further. After all, teams that have gone up 2-0 in an NBA Playoff series have gone on to win 93.7% of the time (239-16 all-time).
Instead, Miami is back to having control, having stolen the home-court advantage that the Pacers have fought for and talked about for what feels like forever. Indiana cannot get down on itself, however, as just one win in Miami will shift it back and they’ll get two chances to do that, starting this Saturday. History suggests they’ll have a good shot at it as well, as the two teams are 8-8 against each other since the beginning of last season and have alternated wins and losses for 13 straight meetings. The alternating pattern favors the Pacers, as Game 7 would be on their home floor, while odds suggest the Heat are in the driver’s seat.
Let’s see what gives first.