EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
The back-and-forth ECF return to Miami tonight for a pivotal Game 5. Tied at 2-2 this series is proving to be the most competitive and exciting of the 2013 postseason. Both sides are loaded with talent, veteran poise and clutch performers.
The only non-competitive 48 thus far was Sunday’s Game 3 in Indy, where the Heat outscored the Pacers in every quarter, shot 55% and committed only 5 turnovers. This was the Heat team that rolled through the regular season and was anointed the prohibitive favorite to repeat. They were scary good that night and had some thinking the series’ momentum had shifted unalterably.
However, coach Frank Vogel’s guys flipped the script in Game 4 on Tuesday, winning 99-92 behind C Roy Hibbert’s 23 points and 12 rebounds. All five Pacer starters scored in double figures, and they shot 50% as a team. Most importantly they outrebounded Miami 49 to 30 and outscored them 50 to 32 in the paint.
Miami had the lead at 86-83 before Indy went on a 16-6 run to close out the game. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh combined to shoot only 6 for 21, and LeBron James fouled out for only the fifth time in his NBA career.
All of the Big 3 are banged up. LeBron tweaked his ankle in Game 4 and may not be 100% tonight, so Bosh will need to bring his A-game, as will some of the bench guys who have struggled.
After Game 4 there was grumbling and mumbling among some of the Heat players and fans about the officiating, but give Indiana credit for showing great resiliency and making believers out of many who didn’t think they stood a chance against the reigning champs.
In last year’s Eastern Conference Semis, Miami and Indiana were in this exact same position – knotted up at 2-2 with Game 5 back in south Florida. The Heat administered a true beat down, 115-83, and went on to win the series in six. The 32-point loss was the worst in Pacers postseason history.
Tonight’s Game 5 will be a tighter affair than last year’s. The Pacers aren’t afraid of the Heat’s homecourt advantage. They took Miami to OT before losing a nip and tuck Game 1, and then showed their character and heart by coming back strong and taking Game 2 in South Beach. Indiana is confident that they can win on the road.
Ultimately the team that focuses on their game plan, executes at a very high level and demonstrates poise under pressure will come out on top. Tune in to TNT at 8:30 PM ET to see if the brunt force of Hibbert and PF David West own the inside, or if Miami’s Big 3 do what they have done so many times over the past three seasons and grab the all important Game 5 W.