What happened: A regular-season loss at Indiana woke up the Miami Heat. Maybe the same has happened with a playoff defeat to the Pacers.
After falling Feb. 1 at Indiana, the Heat reeled off 27 straight regular-season wins. On Sunday night, they bounced back from a Friday home loss to wallop the Pacers, 114-96, in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
It was the best game of the playoffs for the Heat, who took a 2-1 series lead. Yes, they’ve won games by more points, including 37 over Chicago in an East semifinal, but the injury-riddled Bulls were not nearly as competitive as the Pacers have been.
LeBron James led the Heat with 22 points and Dwyane Wade added 18. David West led Indiana with 21 points and Roy Hibbert had 20 points and 17 rebounds. But Hibbert shot just 4 of 12 from the field.
The Heat, who committed a meager five turnovers, broke the game open in the second quarter to take a 70-56 halftime lead. The Pacers cut the lead to seven in the third quarter, but the Heat then went on another run to put the game away.
The turning point: With the score tied 30-30 late in the first quarter, it looked as if it could the third straight close game in this series.
But the Heat scored the last four points of the quarter. They then outscored Indiana 36-26 to take charge of the game with a 70-56 halftime lead.
The difference maker: Udonis Haslem gave the Heat an unexpected boost after scoring just three points combined in the first two games.
Haslem scored 17 points, the most he’s had all season and just three shy of his playoff career high. Haslem shot 8 of 9 from the field and also pulled down seven rebounds in 23 minutes.
What it means: Tales of Miami falling in this series have been greatly exaggerated.
The Heat showed why they went an NBA-best 66-16 during the regular season and had that 27-game winning streak. They also showed why they are now 5-0 on the road in the palyoffs.
What’s next: Game 4 of the series is at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.