Sunday, June 2, 2013

Heat - Pacers Game Six - Challenge Accepted

One more loss to a lot of this
Several times in this series, Indy has had the opportunity to just pack their tents and go home. After all, Miami ended them last year, and that team didn't have Ray Allen or Chris Anderson, or rings, or a massive regular season winning streak, and so on, and so on.

The Pacers have answered every challenge, and have been the better team on the floor for as many minutes as the Heat. And if they win one more game, they'll pull off one of the bigger upsets in recent NBA history, especially in a late round of the playoffs. And they won't do it with luck or injuries or refs or flukes; they'll do it by just simply being better.

In the first half of the first quarter, Miami took the early lead but didn't expand it, and Indy got back to even through the routine application of Roy Hibbert. Dwyane Wade continued his nightmare series with turns and reluctance from distance, and he's really shrank in front of us this series; Mario Chalmers has been a better guard for Miami for much of these games. Lance Stephenson showed a spark early, then picked up a technical for some reason. There's a price to be paid for precedent. David West is fighting off an illness which looks to be having an impact, and of course Chris Anderson is out for Miami for the tete a tete with Tyler Hansbrough in Game Five.

The game stayed even on Heat threes and Indiana rebounding, and there was an amazing sequence of Paul George ending Bosh with a dunk, only to see LeBron James answer with an ASAP three. That sequence defined this series for me; two teams I don't necessarily like, but Game that has overwhelmed all of that. Hansbrough tripped James as Pacer Fan screams flop; once again, precedent over reality. Norris Cole's three and James' miss made Miami 6 for 7 from the arc, but with only 23 points to show for it. I don't think I've ever seen a quarter like that before.

In the second quarter, the game remained ragged and even, with mini-runs and plays that didn't push the margin into significance. Indy missed a lot of high percentage shots, but what I found telling was the pace, and Wade's continued struggles; he ended one session of Pacer Volleyball O-Boards with one of those half court showtime passes that only work out when thrown to the rim for James, and looked old and sad on defending a drive to the hoop by George. West doesn't look like himself either (0 for his first 7, but plenty of boards) but that's to be expected with the illness. Joel Anthony made some plays but not much in the way of finishes (um, surprised), and Wade finally made a play off a telegraphed Hibbert pass to lead to a runout. So the half ended with the Heat up, 40-39. To have a 1-point lead for Miami on the road with a C+ kind of effort was all kinds of curious.

Starting the third, Udonis Haslem proves that not all Heat players are good in transition, but he makes up for it by drawing a charge on Stephenson. Wade finally scores on a controlled floater in transition, but Hill drains a three at the end of a ragged possession. Haslem gets a foul in a scrum as Reggie Miller lobbies for the game to be as ugly and stupid as he is (the TNT crew is, by the way, one man too heavy). West with his first make caps a 7-0 run; six point Pacer lead and this game is looking like LeBron or Lose for the Heat.

On cue, James misses and looks bad doing it; he's now 6 for 15, and just not putting pressure on the defense. Crazy sequence where Wade can't finish, Chalmers can't dribble, Shaquille O'Neal catches James and the refs make back to back calls, with James maybe spending more money on a flopping penalty. It's as if both teams just forgot how to play for a minute there. Hibbert pushes it to 9; Wade just doesn't want to shoot the ball. Ugly Heat turnover as Miami looks lost, ending with a Haslem travel on the baseline. He then picks up his fourth foul against Hibbert on a catch; Anthony comes in and Hibbert undresses him on a drive and dunk. 11 point lead for Indy as Miller shows America why he should not be employed to provide color in NBA games by babbling something about walls. Yeesh.

Wade makes a three; borderline shocking, but George gets it right back. James with a turnover, and George goes operatic after a James foul; Steve Kerr openly begging for flopping fines now. Bosh turns it and hustles back to make the block, but it's a poor goaltend call; Pacers now by 15 and yet another Heat turn makes me wonder if this is going to garbage time soon. Indy returns it and Wade gets to the line after multiple moving Anthony screens. Wade gets just one; bad miss on the second. Bad foul by Stephenson on Wade; hmm. Ray Allen front rims it; Heat legs just look tired to me. James blocks Hibbert as the center brought it down low. Wade misses at the rim and looked tentative doing it; Hansbrough gets away with obvious interference to make it a 16 point game, their biggest lead. James finally gets a drive and goes; as always in this game, George answers ASAP. Wow. Wade fronts another free throw; he's just a mess right now. Augustin burns him for a layup in half court; that's Indy's biggest lead of the series. Wade answers at the end of the clock, but Hibbert walks to a make; Miami just not getting any stops or momentum. James gets a bailout foul from George for his first trip to the line (speaking to his lack of willingness to post in anything but Game 3). Terrible turnover by West puts James back on the line with a steal off the outlet, and that was just a gift way to end the quarter by the home team. James makes both, and the quarter ends with the Pacers leading 68-55.  That's about as bad as I've seen Miami play in the James Era, but a lot of that was Indy answering every play.

Mike Miller, of all people, comes in and immediately travels. Whoops. Hibbert misses and then turns it over, and it's answered both times with James going to the rack. Curious. The MVP misses both shots, but gets to the line on the second to get it back to 11. Spoelstra into deep bench here. George misses on Allen, who then draws a block on Hill; Miami getting to the line a lot early in the quarter with an attitude change from Wade and Bosh being off the floor. Allen only makes one, which seems to be happening a lot recently. Hibbert misses against Anthony, but Allen can't make the corner three. Terrible turnover by the Pacers answers it, but the Miami offense isn't doing enough to make this a run. Allen miss at the end of the clock, and we finally get the Frank Vogel timeout the Pacers should have taken a minute ago.  But again, no run.

West to the hoop to push it back to 12; that looked better. Miller with two perfect rainbows, and it's suddenly six; wow. Hill can't answer from the arc, and Miller gets the board as part of his hero run. Cole has a wide-open look stay out. West with a major make from distance. James looks reinvigorated on the drive and make with contact; unfair. Stephenson's three stays out, but Ian Mahimi draws a foul on Anthony to keep the ball. Miller steals it from Hibbert, leading to a James runout, and good God, has Miller had an impact here. George's open three is immense and pushes it back to seven; Game Is Getting Real Good All Of A Sudden. James makes the tactical mistake of passing to Anthony, who gets eaten down low; turnover on Miami takes us to the break with the sense that the Pacers may have just gotten past the sudden squall.

Out of the break, West misses, but takes the board away from Miller for the make; back to a 9 point game. Anthony recovers a loose ball to keep Allen from turning it. James gets George's fourth on a drive; potentially important. James is called for an offensive foul as Hibbert ends him in the lane, then nearly runs out of the building for a technical. The Heat bench takes a second for funsies, and that's going to be all over the highlight films. Pretty much a 50-50 play, and Hibbert getting the call at home isn't really that shocking. 11 point game for Indy as the time is running out. Hibbert makes in the lane and that might be it.

Wade, Bosh and Chalmers come back in under the theory that they'll be starting in Game Seven, so maybe a good couple of minutes might make them forget how fast Spoelstra threw them under the bus. Wade gets a stop on multiple blocks, and James gets a make-up call and just one make; 12 point game with 3 minutes left. West cans the open free throw jumper; so much for illness. Chalmers' three is short and sad; Hibbert turns it, but the Pacers just need to run clock now. Chalmers to the rack for a deuce; 12 with 2 minutes left. Hill with a make, and James gets it back by luck. George for three is all kinds of killshot style. The MVP leaves with 29/7/6 as the TNT crew starts rattling off numbers, and the Wade/Bosh stats (15 combined points, and not exactly lighting it up in the other categories) will lead all of the analysis...

But the only numbers that really matters is 3-3, with everything coming down to Monday night in Miami. Your final was Pacers 91, Heat 77, and James looks to be the only Heat player who didn't have their dog put down tonight.

Who wins on Monday? Well, I picked the Heat to win in seven before any of this began, and nothing has made a team look worse in this series than winning a game. They will also get back Anderson, which means they can stop playing 4 on 5 on offense, and add a big who can finish inside that isn't James. Their crowd will care hard for once, and they won this game last year, against the Celtics, though that one was coming off a Game Six win. The first good game by a Pacer guard on the road in this series might be their first, and if the flash they got from Miller tonight was for real -- and remember, he was immense for them in the Finals last year -- that could be a huge help, seeing how Shane Battier has been more or less eradicated in this series.

But there's no sugar coating the fact that they just got absolutely pounded flat in a Game Six where they scored the lowest points in their recent history despite hitting a bunch of threes. This could have easily been a game in the '60s for them. (Their home court didn't save them in Game Two, either.) If you are picking them, as I am, it's on the idea that the Pacers are going to lose, with turnovers and foul trouble, as much as the Heat are going to win based on their previously indomitable skill and will.

And if the Pacers win... well, I don't know what to do with Wade and Bosh then, and neither will the Heat. (Let's also stop telling the lie that this series is just a bad matchup for Wade; he played well against the Pacers last year. Either he's hurt or old now, and neither condition is getting better by Monday.)

Other than to just start counting the clock on James leaving town in 2014 as a free agent...


Snd_dsgnr said...

If I have to listen to Reggie talk about how there's a big difference between "selling" and "flopping" one more time I'm going to pull what's left of my hair out.

And not that it matters much, but there's only one "o" in Hansbrough.

DMtShooter said...

Miller really just wants the NBA to be more like European football, or has an undiagnosed love of WWE. Which makes me wonder why ESPN doesn't hire him away from Turner, since having single sport people who watch the actual game is kind of their thing, really...

DMtShooter said...

(And thanks for the edit, as always. Fixed.)

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