Game three between the Heat and Pacers had the makings of another battle. The Pacers returning home after pulling off a big game victory in Miami surely meant another nail-biter on Sunday night. Indiana beat Miami at home twice this season, were 6-0 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse this playoffs and seemed to hold a slight edge in momentum.
Things couldn’t have gone any more different than expected. The signs were in the cards though, since Miami’s 6-0 on the road this postseason and obviously only lost a handful of games on the season as a whole. And for game three, they came ready to avenge the previous game’s loss with a vengeance, which they did by a final score of 114-96.
Two of the biggest differences between Sunday’s game and previous meetings were the Pacers defense (or lack thereof) and the Heat’s bench. For the latter, they finally showed up in a series where they had been nonexistent. Previously, they averaged 35 points per game against Milwaulkee, 32 versus Chicago but only 22 against Indiana. Finally, Bron’s teammates stepped up. Udonis Haslem (17 points), Mario Chalmers (14) and Chris Andersen (nine) combined for 40 points on 16-for-19 shooting.
As for the Pacers defense, they lacked their usual intensity coming out of the gate. The paint defense was woeful and they simply couldn’t slow the Heat down anywhere. Miami used a 8-2 run to open up a 10-point lead in the second quarter and never looked back throughout the rest of the game. They finished the half with 70 points and only had one turnover (they finished the game with only five total).
Chris Bosh and ‘Bron made the difference in challenging the Pacers defense. Bosh’s early jumpers pulled Roy Hibbert from under the basket. In addition, LeBron made his presence known in the paint. “I made a conscious effort to get down in the post tonight, to put pressure on their defense,” James said. “The coaching staff wanted me to be down there tonight, and my teammates allowed me to do that.”
The second half didn’t change the established flow of the game, even as Indy managed to make small runs to try to get back in it. In the third, Pacers managed to score a few three-point buckets to trim the lead to 74-67. Miami quickly responded with a 9-4 run, extended the lead to 91-76 after three and made it 99-78 early in the fourth.
LeBron scored 22 points, Dwyane Wade pitched in 18 plus eight assists, Bosh piled in 15 and all Miami starters hit double figures. The Heat not only took the series lead but also regained home court advantage as the series will pick back up with game four on Tuesday night in Indianapolis.