Monday, May 27, 2013

Indiana Pacers doomed by Miami Heat first Gane 3 start

Special to The Miami Herald

It was obvious by halftime that Game 3 in Bankers Life Fieldhouse would not look like the first two contests of the Eastern Conference Championship series — and that was bad news for the Indiana Pacers.

The Miami Heat reeled off a team-record 70 points and forced the Pacers to play from behind in the second half for the first time in the series. In the end, the 70-56 deficit was too big of a hole of dig out of. The 114-96 defeat was the Pacers first playoff loss at home this season.

Miami played better offensively, shooting a sizzling 60 percent from the floor over the first 24 minutes. Udonis Haslem’s 17 points forced Indiana to reevaluate what they were doing defensively. Indiana center Roy Hibbert said he felt pulled in two directions.

“[Haslem] wasn’t making those shots the prior two games,” said Hibbert, who scored 20 points and pulled down 17 rebounds last night. “So I was rotating off him and helping out Paul [George] or rotating on [Chris] Bosh and stuff like that. Now he’s been hitting [them]. I have to play both. I have to stop the roll guy and get out and contest.”

It was a night where the Pacers needed an edge on the boards but the Pacers could not get that until late. Miami held Indiana an even 17-17 on the glass at halftime.

“We didn’t have a great defensive night but it wasn’t horrible,” said Indiana coach Frank Vogel. “It wasn’t as bad as the numbers look. You have to credit Miami for playing a great game.”

Miami’s 114 points were the most the Pacers had given up all playoffs.

More importantly, Indiana didn’t get important contributions from role players like Lance Stephenson. Stephenson pulled down 12 rebounds in Game 1, while scoring 10 points and grabbed eight boards in Game 2.

In Game 3, he scored three points by halftime without a rebound. He finished the game with seven points and one rebound.

“He’s a key to our team,” Vogel said about Stephenson before the game. “We can’t have him passive with the basketball. We are limited when he is that way. He’s got to be in the killer instinct mode at all times and the make great decisions late.”

David West kept the Pacers in the contest early, scoring 16 points, on 6-for-10 shooting, by halftime. But West went 0 for 4 in the third quarter as the Heat stretched its lead to 91-76. He finished the night with 21 points.

West said, however, it will be the Pacers defense that will get them back into the series.
“We feed off of our defense,” West said. “If our defensive energy is low, then usually offensively we’re going to have gaps. We feel good where we are. We have to come out and make them a little more uncomfortable than they were tonight.”

The Pacers had been invincible at home during the playoffs. Going into last night’s game, the Pacers had been dominant at home, averaging 101.2 per game while giving up 87.3 points en route to a 6-0 record. Until last night, no team had scored 100 points or more on the Pacers at home in the postseason.

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