(Photo Credit: Chris Trotman)
The Miami HEAT overcame a second half deficit to defeat the Indiana Pacers 97-94 Wednesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. With the win the HEAT pulled to within one game of the Pacers in the Eastern Conference standings.
Impact Performance of the Night: Against an opponent where points come at a premium, Dwyane Wade scored 32 on 15-of-25 shooting. Wade was able to get to the rim early on, which got him in rhythm for the rest of the game. Wade hit a few jumpers in the second half, but it was his post game that was so impressive. Wade has been one of the league’s best post players over the past few seasons and tonight showed why. When the HEAT needed a basket they dumped the ball into the post for Wade. He was able to shake his defender and get good, clean looks close to the rim. Without Wade handling the scoring burden for most of the night, the HEAT might not have pulled out the win.
The Deciding Run: The HEAT found themselves down 88-80 with 4:33 left in the game after Paul George and Lance Stephenson combined for five points. The HEAT finished the game on a 17-6 run, taking the lead late and hitting free throws to ice the game. The HEAT traded baskets for a few possessions, not able to gain any ground until Ray Allen grabbed a rebound and found a streaking Dwyane Wade for an easy dunk in transition. From there the HEAT took over. Chris Bosh and Ray Allen hit back to back threes to first tie the game then take the lead. Miami never looked back.
Play of the Game: Miami had really struggled from long range against the Indiana Pacers this season. In the first game the HEAT shot just 4-of-21 in the first meeting and struggled to get things going tonight. They started the evening 3-of-18, with many misses coming on clean looks. Finally, the HEAT were able to knock down a trey. LeBron James found an open Chris Bosh just to the left of the top of the key. Bosh drained the three, tying the game. The HEAT were able to force a Paul George miss and James secured the rebound. The HEAT took off on a 3-on-2 break, with James manning the middle, Bosh streaking down his left and Ray Allen streaking down his right. The Pacers failed to pick up Allen, a sin committed many times by opponents in Allen’s career, and they paid for it with a made three-pointer. The back-to-back threes put Miami ahead for the first time since the first quarter and ultimately put the game away.
Efficiency Rating: Offensive Efficiency: 103.5; Defensive Efficiency: 98.6
Trend to Watch: For the second straight game against the Pacers, the HEAT were able to keep Indiana off the offensive glass as the Pacers finished the game with just six offensive rebounds. Miami doesn’t necessarily need to “win” the rebounding battle, but they have to find a way to neutralize the Pacers size advantage to give themselves a chance. Tonight we saw the Chris Bosh-Chris Andersen pairing play more than they had in any game before. Also, the HEAT used all five players on the floor to attack the boards. LeBron James finished with nine rebounds and Ray Allen finished with seven. They were attacking the glass from the wings as HEAT bigs blocked out. There will never be a player that grabs double digit rebounds every night for the HEAT, but tonight they showed that that doesn’t matter. When the whole team is committed to cleaning the glass, they have more than enough.
The Takeaway: That was a lot of fun and looked nothing like a game in mid-December. Dwyane Wade got the nod for the Impact Performance of the Night, but it should really go to all 19 players that took the floor tonight. There was great shot-making on display to counter the terrific defense. There were hard fouls and physical play all over the floor. There was drama that you don’t often encounter at this point in the season. In the long run, there isn’t much to takeaway from tonight. The Pacers scored at a fairly efficient clip against the HEAT, but that’s happened before. The HEAT kept the Pacers off the glass and more than held their own in the rebounding category, but that’s happened before. These are two teams that know each other quite well and it showed. If we’re lucky, we’ll get another game or two like this the rest of the regular season. Both teams played hard. Both teams played well. And we are lucky that we got to witness such high-level baskeball.
Notes: LeBron James finished with 24 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. Chris Bosh added 15 points and eight rebounds. Greg Oden and Michael Beasley were inactive.