The Indiana Pacers beat the Miami Heat tonight, 99-92. But before everyone pulls out the André Extra Dry and talks about how Indiana is going to do it and how the Heat might have finally met their match and how much of a clinic in hustle stats and team cohesion and bench spirit the Spurs-Pacers series is going to be, don't.
Because tonight, everything that could go right for the Pacers did. They shot 50% from the field. They out-rebounded the Heat by 19. All five starters were in double digits. In particular, Roy Hibbert, who had 23 points and 12 rebounds, and Lance Stephenson, who added another 20 points, basically did whatever they wanted. David West's jumper was finally falling, and he was strong enough on the boards to record a double-double. I'd talk about George Hill, but this happened, so no talking about George Hill.
And for the Heat, everything went wrong. They shot less than 40% and committed 30 personal fouls. LeBron James was held to a relatively human 26 points, six boards and five assists, and fouled out with a little less than a minute left following a Lance Stephenson flop. Karma, though. Point guard Mario Chalmers scored 20, but only recorded one assist. Dwyane Wade had 16 points, which sadly is what we expect from him now, though still more than Udonis Haslem, Shane Battier and Norris Cole combined. Chris Bosh sucked all game long, and then he twisted his ankle, missed time, returned to the game, and kept sucking. It took Ray Allen 13 shots to score 11 points. Even Joey Crawford was refereeing against the Heat.*
It was an ugly game, as it had to be for the Pacers to win, but Miami played into their hands. They were stagnant offensively and worse than usual defensively. After Bosh left, the Pacers cleaned up on the offensive glass, especially in the fourth quarter when they were able to match the Heat basket for basket and maintain their lead. Still, the Heat tied the game midway through the quarter and even threatened to pull away.
Most of us are rooting for Indiana. We love underdogs. We love feel-good stories. We love little Jewish men toppling giants. We want to believe. But just as the Pacers played some of the best basketball we've seen from them this postseason, Miami played some of the worst we've seen all year. And yet, when James fouled out with 56 seconds left in the game, the Heat were down four with the ball.
The series is now tied, 2-2, and the Pacers still have to beat Miami two of the next three games. It'd be great if two of the next three games the stars aligned and the Pacers put together really solid 48-minute performances. But as we saw tonight, even that might not be enough.
*No he wasn't.