It took a total team effort, but the Indiana Pacers were able to bounce back after a crushing 114-96 defeat at home to beat the Heat 99-92 in game four and even the series at two games a piece.
After starting the game off with an 11-0 run, the Pacers were able to control the tempo for much of the first half and took a one point lead into the half, 47-48. Unlike Sunday nights fiasco, the Pacers were able to keep the Heat within reach and didn’t allow them to get more than a six point lead for the entire game.
If the Pacers were going to bounce back and win tonights game, it was going to take a complete effort from all involved in order to make that happen; and that is exactly what they got.
Late in the third quarter, the tide began shift in favor of the underdog Pacers. Chris Bosh (7 points, 3 rebounds) went down with an ankle injury and Pacers Head Coach Frank Vogel used that as his teams opportunity to exploit their height mismatch with Roy Hibbert. Bosh would later return in the middle of the fourth quarter.
The Pacers used Hibbert to stretch the floor and create open opportunities for other players since the Heat would often double-team Hibbert when the ball was in his hands. He would then swing the ball out to Paul George and he would get it into the hands of Lance Stephenson, George Hill, or David West who would often times knock down the open jumper or cut to the basket for the easy layup.
Throughout much of the second half, the Heat were faced with an all to familiar foe for basketball teams: foul trouble. By the end of the game, four Miami Heat players, LeBron James (6), Dwayne Wade (5), Chris Bosh (4), and Mario Chalmers (5), all had at least four fouls with James fouling out in the final minute of the game. James finished with 24 points, six rebounds, and five assists.
The Pacers were able to stay out of foul trouble with the exception of Stevenson who finished with five fouls to go along with his 20-point effort. Pacers big man Roy Hibbert committed just one foul on the night en route to his third straight double-double performance with 23 points and 12 rebounds.
Hibbert wasn’t the only Pacer to record more than ten rebounds and ten points as West also chipped in with 12 rebounds and 14 points of his own. George Hill added 19 points and Paul George ended up with 12 points after scoring just two in the first half.
A former Georgetown Hoya, Hibbert led the way for the Pacers to finish out the game. The 7’2” center grabbed a few key boards including his own which led to an and-1 opportunity that he converted.
As a team, the Pacers shot a cool 50 percent from the floor and out rebounded the Heat 49-30 including 34 defensive rebounds. The Pacers dished out 18 assists with Hill having the most on the team with six. Dwayne Wade (16 points, 3 rebounds) led the Heat with six assists, as well.
The Heat just couldn’t buy a bucket tonight. They shot 39 percent from the floor and were just 8-23 from behind the arc. Even with the poor shooting performance, James, Mario Chalmers (20 points), and Ray Allen (11 points, 7 rebounds) were able to keep the game fairly close and always within reach. Had James not fouled out late, the outcome might have been different.
The NBA Eastern Conference Finals now heads back to South Beach all knotted up at 2 games a piece. Something to note, in the Bosh-James-Wade era, the Heat are 4-1 in home “swing” playoff games. Their only loss came last season in the Conference Finals against the Celtics in a series that they eventually came back to win.
Tip off is set for this Thursday, May 30, at 8:30 PM and you can catch the game live on TNT.