After an awful start, the Miami Heat made the proper adjustments and fought back to beat the Pacers 99-87 and take a 2-1 series lead.
The Pacers at one point led by 15 in the first quarter, which only made the Heat’s 15 point fourth quarter lead feel even bigger. Behind a huge final frame from Ray Allen, who at one point hit four three-pointers in a row and dropped in 13 points in the fourth, the Heat clamped down and left Indy reeling.
When the Heat went down early, they never panicked or got out of sorts, just kept running their offense and trudging along. In the second quarter Erik Spolestra employed LeBron in guarding Lance Stephensen all 94 feet, and when George Hill came back he got the same treatment from Mario Chalmers and the Pacers offense never recovered. Stephenson finished with only 10 points and looked visibly winded in the fourth quarter thanks in part to LeBron’s swarming defense. Plus, thanks to James being the irritant that Lance usually is, Stephenson constantly over-dribbled, looked teammates off and wasn’t even close to the player he was in the first two games when he carried Indy’s offense for long stretches.
In the last two games, the difference between these two teams is clear. the Heat have been here before, the moment is never too big and they always feel they are in the game while the Pacers have folded when it has mattered most. And why would Miami be nervous? They’ve been here before. When you make three Finals in a row, you see pretty much every situation, every kind of deficit and they’ve prevailed throughout all of them. In Game 6 of the Finals last season, they were as close to the edge of the cliff as you can be, and still found a way to win. 15 points in the first quarter is nothing compared to that.
With the win the Heat now have the 2-1 series lead and, with two collapses in a row coupled with the Pacers body language, it feels more like 7-1. Indy maintained all season that their main priority was to get the number one seed in the East and they did, only to turn around and drop the home court advantage in all three series they’ve played in.
Game 4 is Monday at 5:30 EST on ESPN.