Pacers pull out Game 2 win vs. Bosh-less Heat
They brought the Heat back from a nine-point fourth-quarter deficit.
James had an impressive stats line: 28 points, nine rebounds, six steals and five assists.
Wade had 24 points, six rebounds, four assists and two blocks.
But it wasn’t enough, not with Chris Bosh indefinitely out (lower abdominal strain) and not with no other Heat scoring more than five points.
That’s all the difference needed to keep the Heat off track — and the Indiana Pacers would not let them off the hook, taking Game 2 78-75 to even the series at 1-1 heading back to Indianapolis for Game 3 on Thursday.
“Chris was missed,” Wade said. “That’s not the reason we lost the ball game.”
Bosh’s injury and Indiana’s Game 2 victory have changed the complexion of the series.
Miami has a serious challenge.
Numbers keep telling the story:
•James and Wade scored 52 of Miami’s 75 points. Eight other players combined for 23 points.
•James and Wade were 18-of-44 from the field. The rest of the team was 9-of-34 (26.5%).
In essence, the Pacers said, “Don’t let anyone other than James or Wade beat us.”
But this was not a loss the Heat can pin on every player except James and Wade. Sure, Miami needs more from its role players, especially with Bosh sidelined.
“We have to do a better job of seeing how we can those guys more involved,” Wade said.
The Heat are 1-of-22 on three-pointers through two games. Guard Mario Chalmers, who has had a bad series, has missed the five three-pointers he has attempted. Forward Mike Miller, a three-point specialist, hasn’t made one. James is 0-for-7 on threes.
James had another strong fourth quarter, but it was short of outstanding. Ten points, six rebounds, three steals and one assist in the fourth quarter looks nice.
But he didn’t make a basket in the final six minutes and missed 4-of-8 free throws, including two misses with 54 seconds left and the Heat trailing 76-75.
“Those last two didn’t go for me,” James said. “The game was not lost or win with those two free throws but I definitely want to come through for my teammates. I’ll get an opportunity again.”
Wade missed a contested layup with 16 seconds left that would have tied the score.
Yes, the Heat need more from role players. They also need more from James and Wade, somehow, if they are going to win this series without Bosh.
There was pressure on those two with Bosh on the floor. There is even more without him.
However, Miami is not in panic mode. The Heat lost a game in the first three rounds of the Eastern Conference playoffs last season and have lost a game in each round of the playoffs this season.
“The one thing you want to ask for is to give yourself a chance to win,” James said. “We gave ourselves a chance, but they made more plays than we did down the stretch.”
Down the hallway, a sense of confidence permeated through Pacers’ locker room. That sense of confidence began, perhaps, after Indiana coach Frank Vogel and his coaching staff watched video of Game 1 and began relaying the game plan to the Pacers.
With a sly grin Tuesday morning, Vogel admitted he had an “aha” moment watching video of Game 1 between the Pacers and Miami Heat.
“I don’t want to elaborate on it, but I feel good about our game,” Vogel said then. “I feel good about what our defensive coverages are going to be.”
That “aha” moment for Vogel? While watching the second half of Game 1 against the Heat, he noticed Miami’s spread offense was similar, but not the same, as the way the Orlando Magic played against the Pacers in the first round.
“Guarding the Orlando Magic’s spread offense for that entire series really helped us understand how to slow down (Miami’s) small lineup,” Vogel said.
Vogel has no interest in watching any video from the nine games Miami played without Bosh during the regular season.
“It makes more sense to study them against us,” Vogel said. “We saw them for an entire half playing against us. That’s really where my focus was.”
Part of Indiana’s philosophy was making sure another player beside James and Wade didn’t kill the Pacers. With Miami’s small lineup, it allowed Pacers 7-2 center Roy Hibbert to anchor the defense in the middle of the lane and protect the rim. There wasn’t a Heat player to draw Hibbert from the basket, and his presence helped keep James and Wade out from attacking the basket as often as they like.
And he did.
Granger took satisfaction in the win. Even without a great offensive night, Indiana won.
“Me and Paul have the hardest jobs in the book,” Granger said. “LeBron and D-Wade shot 48 shots. Me and him guarding them the whole time. This series really may not be about us getting points. That’s what makes our team special.”
Few series are easy this time of year, but the Heat are in a predicament. They don’t have Bosh, are now looking at possibly long series with the Pacers and there’s a concern about tiring James with too many minutes.
He has played 43 minutes in both games. James hates to make excuses, but he played a ton of minutes in last season’s playoffs.
In 21 postseason games in 2011, James played 40 minutes or more in 18. He averaged 43.9 minutes, and played 10 consecutive games with at least 40 minutes last season.
He averaged 38.7 minutes in the first six games of this season’s playoffs.
“It’s taxing. But If I’m on the floor, I’ve got play at a high level,” James said.
James and Wade can have great statistical lines.
But there is only one bottom line: the final score.
That’s all that matters for James, Wade and the Heat.