There were a lot of clutch buckets, and the offense was very efficient overall. The Pacers shot 50% and only turned the ball over 12 times against a Heat team that usually doesn’t surrender those numbers.
But this was defense and rebounding more than anything.
That’s Pacers’ basketball.
They started right after the tip. The 11-0 lead looked to be excellent offense, and George Hill in particular started the game more ready to play than anyone. But the core of that start was defense.
Here were Miami’s first six possessions: Turnover, missed layup, missed jumper, missed jumper, missed jumper, missed jumper. That right there set the tone. That gave the Pacers all the confidence they needed following a Game 3 first half in which Miami tallied 70 points.
Then it was grind it out.
They relinquished most of that lead before the half, entering the break up just one.
That was a moment when this could have fallen apart. Indiana controlled the first half, and it felt like they should have walked into halftime up around eight. By the time Miami went up six points almost five minutes later, it looked like Indiana’s quest to make the Finals might be falling apart.
They fought right back — and then some.
The Pacers scored the next 10 points and, again, were in the driver’s seat.
Around that time is when this game started to be, in the eyes of most onlookers, more about poor officiating than about great basketball. The fouls piled up and the frustration boiled over, with Indiana coach Frank Vogel picking up a technical foul after his All-Star Paul George was whistled for a loose-ball foul.
Still, the Pacers won the quarter and entered the final 12 minutes with a seven-point lead.
Against Miami, that is nothing to feel too secure about, but it was a good position to be in.
Then came the shot-clock violation. Or, the “shot-clock violation.” Roy Hibbert missed a shot off the iron with a little over eight minutes to play, and the Pacers got the offensive rebound. Tyler Hansbrough even finished the play with a bucket. But … it was waived off. The timekeeper didn’t reset the shot-clock and no official on the floor overruled that call.
It was only two points. But it was a huge momentum swing that killed the good vibes that Indiana had been playing with ever since falling behind by six early in the third. They had been up nine. The game had seen the the Pacers out-play the Heat by 15 points since they trailed by six.
It was a big kick to the crotch.
But they didn’t let it be an excuse.
It definitely took them off their game, and that nine-point cushion was erased in just over three minutes. Miami even pulled ahead. It looked like “woe is me” time. Another questionable call — a George pass that appeared to go out of bounds off Ray Allen that was awarded to Miami — made it even worse.
They could have gone into Eeyore mode right then and spent the offseason upset with the officials and themselves for not responding to the adversity better.
That alternate reality never played out, however.
Instead, they made clutch play after clutch play down the stretch. It was great to see them respond so well.
Paul George started off the late dominance with a grown-man drive to the hoop to finish plus the harm.
Ray Allen would proceed to hit a miracle three and LeBron James would add another soon after, but the Pacers just kept scoring and kept grabbing offensive boards.
The Heat actually played pretty good defense at times late in the fourth on Indiana’s first shot attempt, but the bigs stayed active and kept getting their team extra looks at the hoop. They weren’t to be thwarted a second time.
With six offensive rebounds on 11 missed FGAs for the Pacers in the final period, the Heat had no way to contend. Roy Hibbert was an unstoppable monster — missing a hook shot then following up his own miss with a layup plus the foul — and Lance Stephenson made two huge buckets in isolation — a pull-up jumper over Dwyane Wade and a drive for a short jumper in the lane.
That was all it took.
Amid the play-making and buckets, it was fitting that they closed the game as they started it, however.
Miami’s final four possessions: turnover (Lebron illegal screen that fouled him out), turnover (Wade travel), missed jumper, missed jumper, missed jumper.
Yup. Defense and rebounding.
“They got all the loose balls and long rebounds in the fourth quarter,” said Erik Spoelstra after the game.
Overall, Indiana out-rebounded Miami 17-8 in the final 12 minutes while holding LeBron and company to 7-for-19 (36.8%). That’s what they do and that’s what they did.
Series tied 2-2.
The poor officiating (add LeBron’s offensive foul and Wade’s travel to the list, along with other questionable calls and reviews) will be a major story line nationally. And that’s a shame. Because the players on the court (and not just Indiana … Allen hit an amazing three and LeBron hit a clutch triple himself) were doing marvelous things in between the whistles and the controversy. (UPDATE: Wade didn’t walk, LeBron did illegally screen.)
Ultimately, however, it doesn’t really matter.
Because if this series continues to be as gritty, well-played and entertaining as it has been, nobody will really care about this game anyway. It will just be one of the first four that set up the best-of-three yet to come.
It should be fun.
|David West, PF 39 MIN | 5-11 FG | 4-6 FT | 12 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 14 PTS | +6 |
Went 3-for-3 while playing all 12 minutes in the third quarter as the Pacers won the period. Seven second-half boards. Mr. West was in the building.
|Paul George, SF 33 MIN | 4-10 FG | 4-5 FT | 8 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 5 TO | 12 PTS | +3 |
Was not aggressive enough early and got into foul trouble while seeming to be taken out of his game by the (poor) officiating. Had a huge and-one late though and made his FTs.
|Roy Hibbert, C 40 MIN | 10-16 FG | 3-4 FT | 12 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 23 PTS | +5 |
Monster. Need to take back anything I’ve ever said about his inability to finish strong and play like a 7’2″ guy. He has been the biggest player — and not just literally — for the Pacers in this series. Had three huge offensive boards in the fourth, including one on his own hook shot miss that he laid in while getting an and-one, a foul that was LeBron’s fifth.
|George Hill, PG 39 MIN | 4-13 FG | 9-10 FT | 5 REB | 6 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 19 PTS | +4 |
Don’t be fooled by the shooting percentage. He was the heart and soul of the attack in many ways, something best illustrated by a clutch defensive board when he dove on the floor, secured the ball and called a timeout. Played all but 33 seconds of the final 24 minutes, and scored 7 points in the games first two minutes to set the tone for a Pacers’ win. Made free throws.
|Lance Stephenson, SG 41 MIN | 9-15 FG | 1-2 FT | 5 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 20 PTS | +14 |
He is the proverbial X-factor. It was his inspired play that was the most instrumental in closing out the Knicks last series and he brought it again tonight. Aggressive drives and good defense. He had three of the biggest plays of the game: fadeaway 3 to end the third, his pull-up jumper with 3:30 to play and a drive/finish with a minute left to put Indiana up 4.
|Tyler Hansbrough, PF 9 MIN | 0-0 FG | 3-4 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 3 PTS | +1 |
Gave some good minutes in the first half at a time when the Pacers’ bench often backslides.
|Sam Young, SF 14 MIN | 2-3 FG | 2-2 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | +7 |
Some of his finest work. Stepped in to guard LeBron when George found himself in foul trouble and did a nice job throwing timely double teams at James when he was off ball. Had a nice little dunk.
|Ian Mahinmi, C 7 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | +4 |
Missed a few rotations but did a good job inside most of the time. Not much production but had a presence.
|D.J. Augustin, PG 18 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 0 PTS | -9 |
Similar to Mahinmi. Nothing big stat wise but his assists show that he was able to be a factor in what was at times a stagnant offense.
|Frank Vogel |
Orchestrated some good adjustments that didn’t allow James to dominate on the block like he did in Game 3.