Indiana evened the series, but can they follow through?
(Photo: Nathaniel S. Butler / NBAE via Getty Images | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2013)
The Pacers took care of business on their home court last night. While they may have been boosted by some 50/50 calls going their way down the stretch, they also stepped up to the plate when they needed to. Roy Hibbert flexed his offensive muscles and Lance Stephenson showed shades of the player who dropped 25 on the Knicks. You could even argue this series is one defensive breakdown away from being 3-1 Pacers.
Indiana stuck with what’s gotten them to this point: Defense, defense, defense. They shut down James (insofar as anyone can shut him down - 24 points before fouling out late in the fourth), and held Wade to 16. There were shortcomings though – Chalmers was able to get in-between the D and net 20, despite the mismatch that the Pacers usually take advantage of.
But at the final whistle, the Pacers were able to stand toe-to-toe with the Heat and take their punches like Rocky Balboa, except, without the brain damage.
The real question is, can they take best-of-three from Miami?
Probably not. Miami still holds home court, which is chock full of their “special” brand of fan. They also have a reliable model for sustaining in long playoff series. Last year it took them six games to beat the Pacers and seven to finish the Celtics, and they still had enough gas in the tank to only drop a single game to the Thunder. Last night almost everything went wrong for the Heat, and yet Indiana was only able to win by 7. If the Heat play error-free basketball, like they did in game 3, this could be a shorter series than everyone thinks.
So if the Heat dominate the way that most think (and dread) they will, there is still a caveat. They’ll have to play at least six games in this series, and the rested Spurs are waiting for them in the finals. All of that shapes up to a whole lot of this.
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