The entire debate about this Miami Heat team—that they would win, that they wouldn't win, and ultimately why they did win—is centered around their Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. The Heat gutted their entire team to pay for these three players three summers ago. Their supporting cast was weak, probably would always be weak, but it would likely improve every season through the draft and free agents like Shane Battier and Ray Allen taking pay cuts to get a last shot at a ring. James, Wade, Bosh, and Pat Riley gambled that the Big Three would be enough to overcome the team's obvious deficiencies and push the Heat over the top. Last season and most of this year, it was. But as we've seen throughout the playoffs and especially this series against the Indiana Pacers, there is no Big Three in Miami right now. There's LeBron, and everybody else. And as we saw tonight in the Heat's 90-79 win at home to take a 3-2 series lead against the Pacers, LeBron is probably enough.
As a team, the Pacers are longer, tougher and, as some will whisper, maybe even better than the Heat. They overpowered the Knicks in the last round, and for long stretches today, they overpowered Miami. Heat forward Udonis Haslem had a great game and scored 16 points on nine shots, but all series long, Roy Hibbert and David West have more or less neutralized Bosh. He was held to seven points and five rebounds tonight. Bosh now has 18 total rebounds in the series. Wade was held to 10 points tonight, and has been a shadow of himself throughout the postseason. No one else on Miami was able to do much.
The Pacers were up by four at half, but TNT's crew was all but declaring the game over at halftime. Then the third quarter happened, and James, as he's wont to do on occasion, went completely nuts. In the third alone, James went 7-10 for 16 points, and also chipped in with four rebounds and assists. He didn't turn the ball over. The Pacers, on the other hand, scored 13 total in the third, and by the end of the quarter, the Heat were up by 13. Game over.
James finished the game with 30 points, eight rebounds, and six assists, which we've somehow accepted as par for the course. The Pacer's own Big Three of Paul George, Roy Hibbert and David West were able to dominate on the other side. George had 27, 11 rebounds and five assists. Hibbert chipped in with 22, six boards, and this, And West added another 17 points and eight assists. But starters George Hill and Lance Stephenson scored a combined five points, and their bench was outscored by Miami's, 15-8. That was never going to be enough support to beat the Big Three, and apparently it's not enough to beat James and everybody else. The guy's always been too big, too strong, too fast, but now the league MVP is too smart, too experienced, too efficient, too much.
The Pacers now have to beat LeBron and his supporting cast at home on Saturday and again Monday in Miami to win the series. To do so, it looks like they'll have to play perfect basketball, and hope James slips in the shower.
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