Sweatin’ Bullets is an 8p9s tradition started by Johnny Auping, who used to contribute regularly but has moved on to greener pastures. In it, he would share some thoughts on the game and throw in some colorful assessments that may otherwise never make it to print.
Here, we revive that idea with some extra thoughts on last night’s instant classic Pacers win over the Heat.
- Game of the year. The last regular season affair I recall feeling this much like a playoff game was a July 2004 showdown between the Yanks and the Sawx. The game was wild, and it was naturally just as overhyped as this Pacers/Heat game seemed before tip off. Ten, Jeter made a miraculous diving catch into the stands and came up with a bloody chin, and in the 13th inning, Manny Ramirez hit what felt like a game-winning homer. Then, sure enough, the Yankees came back to win in the bottom of the inning. At the time, the Red Sox were in an 86-year World Series drought and this infamous rivalry was often scoffed at as actually a “feud” since rivalries require that each team has won before. This is where we are in Heat/Pacers — the irreproachable champs vs. the plucky upstarts who have no respect for the formality and prestige that come with pinstripes and titles. And Lance Stephenson is clearly Pedro Martinez throwing at Jeter’s elbow every opportunity he gets. (Epilogue: A few days after this lose, the Sox traded their injured former star Nomar Garciaparra for a lesser, younger player and went on to win a ring.)
- So much for Greg Oden mattering (more on this from Zak Keefer).
- Lance hit a bunch of 3-pointers in the game, and was truly on his Chuck Stephenson / Lance Person / Born Rifle game. But the worst possession of the game was clearly him dribbling around aimlessly for about 15 seconds and then launching — and swishing — a 28-foot triple. This catch-and-shoot trey, on the other hand, sure was sweet though.
- This was Paul George’s best defensive performance in a long time and I don’t think it’s any coincidence that it translated into a great offensive outing. He is a stopper at heart and a showdown with LeBron was just what he needed to get going. I mean, some of the close outs and nuanced ways that George denied the ball and steered James to where he wanted him to go were just artwork. He had an unreal pocket pick of James as well, but it was the small stuff that was so much more impressive.
- Regardless … LeBron James is so, so, so, so so good. I mean, some of the stuff he does is simply unstoppable. That one play where George was right in his mug on the right wing then LeBron took one dribble across the 3-point line and rocked back into a laser-perfect triple? Man. How do you not just give up after that? Then, even as mindblowing as things like this are, you still look over at the box score at the end and see he had a “quiet” 38 points and are just like “Oh. Yeah. I guess that makes all the sense.”
- Nice try, Dwyane. In Wade’s defense, the dude in the red sweater was wiiiide open.
- Like three times in the first quarter, Roy sort of fake-challenged drives into the lane, twice letting Dwyane Wade make layups and once causing Chalmers to short-arm a release. Was this maybe an adjustment to stay out of foul trouble? Or maybe something he saw on film that Miami often passes out of layups when he’s there?
- Only 12 turnovers for the usually careless Pacers, compared to 19 committed by the Heat (which led to 26 points for Indiana). As Joseph Goodman noted, LeBron and Wade had 6 apiece while no Pacer finished with more than 2.
- The Pacers certainly appeared to get the raw deal on a few calls in the first half, while the Heat have a legitimate objection to a Wade 3-pointer that didn’t count because he was erroneously ruled out of bounds and a possible uncalled travel that wasn’t called on David West right before he drilled a dagger triple late. Did he Truffle Shuffle his pivot foot a bit? Sure. Did he do something other than what tons of players (think Reggie Miller) do half the time when they catch and shoot? No so much. Did it give him any real advantage? Not at all.
- West’s 3-pointer, which put the Pacers up 84-80, was the 10th trey he has hit in 211 games since joining the Pacers (and the first he has hit in a fourth quarter since coming to Indiana, per Tom Haberstroh). He is now 10-for-41 (24.4%) while wearing the the blue and gold. Not exactly Like a Bosh, but Mr. West may have a future in the archery building.
- Neither C.J. Watson nor Ray Allen played in this one. Andrew Bynum also sat but who knows if he’s really going to play again this year anyway or be trading texts with Greg Oden from the bench.
- As we have come to love with Pacers/Heat, this one was also a rough and tumble affair. Hibbert took a devastating elbow to the face from LeBron right after James took a light shot to the nose and Ian Mahinmi wrapped up LeBron as he was headed to the hole. The Heat had stuff to say about it after the game.
- Evan Turner came in a played quite nicely after Lance got himself tossed. He scored a nice little bucket in transition to cut the Miami lead to 79-80, then he beasted Mario Chalmers with a delightful spin that freed up an easy lane to the hoop. He finished and gave the Pacers an 81-79 lead with 90 seconds left that they would not relinquish. He also had this gorgeous pass to Ian Mahinmi earlier in the game. There were some defensive lapses, as always, but he more than pulled his weight late when the team direly needed him to step up. “When Lance got thrown out, coach just said, ‘Welcome to the rivalry – get in there,’” said coach Vogel, according to Scott Agness.
- In addition to costing two needy kids a pair of backpacks, George Hill’s two missed free throws late could have been devastating. This isn’t the first time he has missed some big ones down the stretch either, and according to The Brooklyn Game editor Devin Kharpetian, the “chances of an 83% shooter missing two consecutive free throws is 2.8%.” Yikes. Hill clearly upset with himself and expressed his displeasure with an ode to Rich Ross’ recent Mastermind LP. #RUH