Monday, June 3, 2013

Pacers - Heat Game Seven -- Well, That Was Anti-Climactic

Looks like Florida to me
Going into tonight's Game Seven, there was a sense that amazing things would happen if the Pacers won... but frankly, I didn't give them much of a chance to do it. As part of the day job for my online advertising start up, I had to make ads for a client that sells Finals gear. I had a set of ads all made up for Spurs-Heat after Game Five; I never bothered to have Spurs-Pacers ads set up. (Not just conceit: it costs money to make ads, and I run a tight ship.) And tonight, Miami played at a killing level, Indiana had no answers, and no one's going to remember just how close the first six games of this series were, or just how good of a series this was.

How total was the Heat domination tonight? To the point where I'm not sure you can even still consider their year good for the Pacers, or put it past the Heat that they just weren't trying very hard in Game Six, and wanted to win at home. The worst series of Dwayne Wade's career ended with one of the best games of this year. Hell, even Chris Bosh had heart tonight. The switch, she was flicked.

In the first quarter, the game was more of what most of the series was; incredibly even and wildly different. The Pacers defended well, refused to be intimidated, and turned the ball over so much that it hardly seemed possible that they were playing for the right to go to the NBA Finals. The Heat took the ball at Roy Hibbert repeatedly, in a transparent ploy to get him out of the game with foul trouble, with Bosh in particular looking defiant about his manhood. Miami trailed after one while still looking like the better team, if only because three pointers really can be fools' gold, at least under playoff heat. The whole thing reminded me of a heavyweight fight between guys who had seen far too much of each other. At the end of the first, it's Pacers 21, Heat 19.

In the second, Frank Vogel brings in Tyler Hansbrough and lets him try to guard James, and that was the first of many decisions that didn't work out for him. The Heat are showing signs of the lockdown defense and passing to the three-ball shooter that makes them deadly, but Indy doesn't blink; big board and follow from Chris Anderson over Hibbert to make the crowd erupt, and Mike Miller grunts his way to a steal, but his three stays out and Miami doesn't get the instant mini-run. 28-25 Heat at the break as Reggie Miller reminds us that even some of the best hoop of the year comes at a terrible terrible cost.

Allen answers 2 FTs with another smooth 3, and that looks really good. Sam Young misses from the baseline, and Norris Cole feeds James at the rim for the highlight show stuff; the MVP nearly tore his own head off at the rim, he had such air. Wow. Anderson pulls the chair on West for another turn, but Allen turns it on offense. Indy's reserves look horrible, but Wade turns it again as the Heat squander opportunities. Ian Mahinmi with a cheap screen foul as Reggie Miller lobbies to play the Indy starters until they are no longer effective. Allen makes a defensive three tech, but Wade is stopped by Mahinmi; he doesn't get any calls any more. West makes from mid-range, but Bosh answers. Lance Stephenson back rims it in his role as the Pacers' John Starks, and Allen finds Bosh for a straight away three that's all cotton. Ten point Heat lead, Bosh screaming like a WWE guy, and things are starting to look solid for the home team.

George Hill ends the run after the break with an open three; Steve Kerr correctly chastises Wade. Too much passing ends in Bosh turning it in the lane. Hill can't make another from the same place. Wade misses as Hibbert alters him, but gets the o-board and feeds James for a dunk as George loses his man. Yet another turn by the Pacers, with George getting his second foul with 3:58 left in the half. The Heat with 16 more field attempts as I type this: Chalmers short-arms a three. Wade nearly steals it from Hibbert, but the Indy center muscles it through to West for a make. Allen drains another open three after the West FT miss, and it's 10 again. James to the rim finally gets Hibbert's second, and it's hard to exaggerate just how much better the Heat look tonight. Allen alone is a big damn deal, let alone Wade and Bosh having a pulse.

James extends it to 12 at the line. Hill misses as the Miami defense continues to look wolfish. Allen misses a great look from the arc as the Heat go into Globetrotter-esque ball movement; wow. Allen misses again, and Bosh seems to care a lot more about fighting Hibbert for position tonight. Stephenson hits a heaving prayer for three, and that was a gift. Wade gets to the lane with Hibbert's third, and that was some of the old quickness. Big foul on Hibbert, obviously, and that one was deserved. If the Heat had shown this much heart in going at Hibbert earlier in the series, they wouldn't be in an elimination game tonight. George misses from the arc; he's going to need to do more, and soon. With no Hibbert in the game, James goes right at the rim and gets two more FTs; he makes both to push the lead to 13, the largest of the night. West can't can it from mid-range, but Chalmers gets a deserved whistle for punkish board work. Mahinmi misses two, and Bosh gets the board for a final shot. Wade holds it, then makes in the lane. James stops the final Pacer attempt, and it's Miami 52, Pacers 37 at the half. The Heat are 24 minutes away from their third straight Finals trip, and if you were betting just based on the first half, you'd make them a 5 to 1 favorite to get it done.

More back and forth ball after the half as the teams trade baskets; not what Indy needs to do. Bosh blocks Hibbert at the rim; he hardly looks like the same guy tonight. West keeping the Pacers attached from mid-range. Chalmers stops a break by George with hustle and hands; the Heat are contagious in chase down defense. Bosh can't get a roll, but Hibbert doesn't make either, and West takes his second on an exaggerated push. There's an odd lack of drama in the game right now, almost as if the crowd is saving itself for a push. Along with, well, their team.

TNT shows us Justin Bieber and David Beckham, just to prove to America that people they hate root for the Heat. Wade misses, gets the board over Hill, and gets the old-school three; Kerr tells us that makes the Heat up 12-3 on the o-boards. Wow. Wade now with 15/7 in his Screw You Haters I'm DWade Game. James gets yet another o-board and goes to the line against George, and the road team looks on the ropes. James makes both -- a subtle enhancement to his game is that he's making more from the line -- and the Heat trap Hill to take a disgusted timeout. Heat up 17, and if Vogel can get his team off the mat at this point, that would be one hell of a job of coaching.

George gets one to rattle home. Wade turns on pressure from Stephenson as the refs don't buy his spasm; the game is delayed for a beer spill as Reggie Miller makes puppies cry by discussing, yet again, the fine art of being a deceptive prick about officiating. On the plus side, this is Reggie's last game as a color analyst for months and months. Udonis Haslem for the foul as Hibbert falls; two makes it's down to 13. Curious. Wade with a great move to draw Hibbert's fourth, and that was old-school magic by the Heat guard. Two makes from him is another sign of how hard he's balling; he's been secretly bad at the line for a while now. West misses from the elbow, and he then takes a shove-flop on Bosh. The makes push the Heat to 19 of 20 from the line -- wow -- and the mini-run for the Pacers is over. 17 point lead with 15 minutes to play. Hill misses from the baseline, and James carelessly travels. West misses, and Miller can't save it; nearly Hibbert's fifth. Mutual misses, and Hibbert gets the coup de grace fifth on position work against Bush. With him out, Miami goes back to Rim Assault, and a Wade make on a room service assist from James gives them their biggest lead, 19, with less than 14 minutes to play.

Hill misses, but Mahinmi keeps it alive until Chalmers is charged with a kicked ball. Chalmers holds Hill for a punk foul, his fourth; if there's a dirtier guard in the league than Chalmers, it's, well, Wade. The Heat play volleyball as the game gets physical, and James goes down in one of those Boy Who Cried Foul plays where the man actually was hacked for once. Anderson gets the get-even call and cans two more FTs -- seriously, can anyone in white miss a FT tonight? -- and it's back to 19. Indy walking it up is all kinds of bad news from a body language standpoint. Hill misses the straightaway three, and West's o-board and follow doesn't go, either. James gets George's fifth at the end of the quarter hero drive, and that really should be the kill shot. Vogel leaves George out because, well, what the hell. Two makes gives the MVP 25 in 3 quarters, and we're getting very close to garbage time.

Vogel throws Hibbert back in, along with Gerald Green to give fresh legs on defense against James; the MVP Does Not Care, and just makes over him. Hill with a make as Heat players dive left and right while near Hibbert; this could get comedic. Miller turns it with a moving screen, and Stephenson feeds Hibbert at the rim for a stuff. Anderson actually misses, then takes a foul in the post. Hibbert misses down low and Green chops Cole hard for one of those calls that should never be thought of as a flagrant, but this is a different era. Finally a miss, but the lead is 20 with 9:30 left. Hibbert boards a Hill miss and gets to 15 and 7 on the night. Green's third in 3 minutes brings us to break; there's a reason why he never gets run, folks.

James finally misses a FT; 19 point game. Hibbert misses a hook as the idea that he's one of the NBA's best big men goes into storage. James now feeling it from mid-range; routinely unfair. George misses, then gets his sixth on a delayed call on a push, as if the Heat need any more help; Anderson, um, "sold" that. Gahhhh. Anderson with two makes, and the Pacers are getting to Statistically Impossible now, especially after yet another turn. James toying with Green and Allen gets Yet Another Board; the MVP runs clock and gets a call. Green nearly averaging a minute per foul. Cole from James for a three makes it 26, and the remarkable thing about this game is how the Heat have spent the entire second half not blinking, not letting up, treating every possession as if the game were close, rather than a blowout. This is the Heat team that stomped the league, the one that looked historically good for a while there, the one that will be favored in the Finals. Whether or not they show up is another matter.

As TNT moves into full Offseason Talent Analysis Mode, Wade makes two more; Hibbert replies with a nice up and under to embarrass Anderson. James exits with 5:08 to play as Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra starts to think about rest. Wade misses, West turns, and then takes his fourth on a push to give Anderson more camera time. Now that the game is long gone, they miss FTs. Green misses a three, but gets a lob dunk for consolation. Rashard Lewis -- OK, I'm actually game-logging Rashard Lewis -- turns it, and Wade finally grabs some bench. Someone named Jeff Pendergraph and Norris Cole get into each other for an ejection, and that might actually come back to haunt Miami in the next series, in that Cole's kind of useful and another tete a tete could get him up there in Technical Points. Odd call by the refs to run players for that, and security gets into things with celebrities at courtside. Sheesh. Just in case anyone forgot, These Teams Don't Like Each Other! (And no one likes Heat fans.) Your final is Heat 99, Pacers 76, and I'm going to strain my arm now by patting myself on the back for calling this perfectly, two weeks ago.

I'll get into a Finals preview later; one of the greater sins of American sports is that everyone has to look ahead instead of being in the moment. But I will tease it with this: no team in the NBA could have beaten Miami tonight. The question is how often that team will show up, and whether the Spurs will be able to stay with the Heat in an A- game. See you Thursday night.

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