Pacers keep pressure on Heat with 90-84 win
Indiana treated Round 1 with Miami like it was a championship
Now it’s time to get ready for the rematch.
Roy Hibbert controlled the middle, scoring 24 points, and Paul
George scored 15 of his 17 points during a second-half scoring
spree that helped the surging Pacers pull away late from the
two-time defending champion Heat 90-84 – on a night Indiana didn’t
come close to playing its best.
”We didn’t play that well in the first half, but we were only
down seven going into the second half,” Hibbert said. ”But we
knew we were going to fight back.”
Nobody has done that better this season than the Pacers, who
improved to 10-2 when trailing at halftime.
But everyone seems to be asking the same question: How good is
The Pacers (19-3) returned home after finishing a five-day road
trip that took them to four of the top five teams in the Western
Conference, and a three-game span in which they beat both of last
year’s finalists – San Antonio and Miami. Indiana’s three losses
have come to teams that are a combined 46-19, all on the road, and
they continue to hold on to the coveted title of NBA’s best
Tuesday night’s win also gave Indiana a three-game lead over the
Heat (16-6) in the Eastern Conference chase for home-court
advantage and extended their franchise-best home start to 10-0.
As for the schedule, it’s not getting much tougher.
After holding four-time MVP LeBron James to nine points and 3 of
11 shooting over the final three quarters, the Pacers play get
back-to-back home games against Charlotte and Detroit before
heading to Miami on Dec. 18. They’ll host Houston two days later
and then play 12 consecutive games against teams currently under
But it’s that rematch that everyone wants to see.
Win that one and the Pacers will assure themselves of no worse
than a season split, and Miami (16-6) has a better sense of what
they’ll have to do next week, too.
”There are going to be some ups and downs against this team,”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. ”They just played better down the
That’s been the Pacers mantra all season, and it was no
Before the game, Lance Stephenson acknowledged he was treating
this contest like a championship game – something two of Miami’s
big three, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, downplayed.
The hometown fans were in postseason form, too, booing loudly at
the officials, chanting ”He’s a flopper” on some contestable foul
calls and eventually serenading Miami players with those familiar
chants of ”Beat the Heat.”
It looked a lot like last season’s Eastern Conference finals,
which Miami won in seven games.
Hibbert dominated the middle, scoring nine of Indiana’s first 11
points and making a season-high 10 baskets – most from point-blank
range – despite playing in the second half with a cotton plug in
his injured nose. David West added 17 points, nine rebounds and
four assists including a left-handed, 4-foot runner that gave
Indiana an 88-81 lead with 38.9 seconds to go.
James’ defense and Miami’s physical double-teams frustrated
George most of the night, but when George finally got free in the
second half, late, he made three big 3-pointers to help the Pacers
pull away. George, the NBA’s No. 4 scorer, finished with 17 points,
three rebounds and four assists.
Chasing George all night apparently took a toll on the Heat.
While James, the league’s No. 2 scorer did get 17 points, 14
rebounds and six assists, he struggled uncharacteristically over
the final 36 minutes – three quarters when Miami failed to top the
20-point mark. Wade also finished with 17 points, while Bosh added
”I thought we brought it tonight,” James said. ”We know
they’re a very good defensive team. I thought they hit some tough
shots and they attacked the rim real well but even though they had
us down by 10 rebounds, I thought we rebounded well and we
Miami never trailed through the first 2 1/2 quarters.
Indiana finally tied the score at 55 on George Hill’s 3 with
8:15 left in the third, and Hibbert gave the Pacers’ the lead,
58-57, on a three-point play 2 minutes later. Miami never tied the
score or retook the lead again as George heated up to keep the Heat
at arm’s length.
”It was fun, it was a real intense game,” George said. ”Both
teams were playing at a high level. You could see an urgency to win
this game tonight.”
NOTES: Singer Justin Timberlake, Jim Courier and Hulman &
Co. CEO Mark Miles were among the familiar faces in the crowd
Tuesday night. … West grabbed his 5,000th career rebound in the
first quarter. … Indiana had a season-high 21 turnovers. …
Miami shot just 42.9 percent from the field and was a dismal 4 of
21 from 3-point range, scoring just 54 points over the final three
quarters. … Indiana improved to 10-2 when trailing at halftime