May 22, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert (55) reacts in the 4th quarter of game 5 in the 2012 NBA eastern conference semi-finals at the American Airlines Arena. The Miami Heat defeated the Paces 115-83. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE
Indiana Pacers fans have a lot to be frustrated about after watching their team lay an absolute egg against the Miami Heat. It was a game they never really had a grasp on, and eventually, it turned into the blowout it kind of felt like it was all right. In a pivotal Game 5, the Pacers played about as poorly as they could while the Heat played their best game of the series. In a sense, it was a perfect storm to result in the 30-point blowout it ended up being.
The Pacers always seemed just outside of the game, as the Heat, led by Shane Battier, gave them their best start of the series, but Indiana remained close despite pitiful shooting and poor offensive execution while the Heat seemed primed and focus. The fight for the Pacers, helped along by Danny Granger and Leandro Barbosa helped to keep the game within striking distance after a quarter while the Heat were hitting just about everything they threw at the basket.
It was fair to feel fortunate with where the game stood despite how much better the Heat looked when the second quarter began. However, the game started to get chippy. Tyler Hansbrough was called for a flagrant foul when he came down on Dwyane Wade when making a play for the ball, but on the very next play, Udonis Haslem made a baseball retaliation play by hammering down on Hansbrough.
The immediate reaction was that of an ejection, but Haslem remained in the game on a Flagrant 1, inciting an immediate uproar that Haslem shouldn't have remained in the lineup. Regardless, Haslem remained and the Pacers fought on, responding to each run the Heat forced the best they could. The high water mark of the night was Roy Hibbert spotting up and hitting a three pointer as the shot clock expired to cut the lead to two.
The play was fun to see and all, but it helped outline the struggles the Pacers faced all night offensively as they were simply unable to get through the Miami defense to involve Hibbert or David West in the paint. The Pacers, in settling for long jumpers, paid a big price when Granger came down on LeBron James's foot, spraining his ankle with the game in reach.
The team's immediate response shifted the tide of the game as the discombobulated Pacers were unable to focus; the Heat closing the half on a 9-2 run as the Pacers went down 9 at the half. From there, it all snowballed as the LeBron James and Dwyane Wade Highlight Show went full effect in the third as Granger made a short effort before going down again and limping off the floor and not finishing it out.
There wasn't anything left to really mention from the rest of the game. Paul George had a short stretch at the beginning of the fourth quarter and David West left the game with a sprained knee himself. West would've been able to return, but with the game being the blowout it was, there was no need for him to play.
Further controversy came to play when Lance Stephenson and the rest of the benches shuffled onto the floor to finish the night out after LeBron James and Dwyane Wade got their chance to stat pad for a bit. While going for an offensive board, Lance Stephenson was elbowed in the neck by Dexter Pittman, who had a wink caught on camera. The play was, of course, only ruled a Flagrant 1 and Stephenson would later be sent for concussion tests and attending to a possible broken collarbone.
The game ended up being far more physical than the Pacers had anticipated, but the differences of the two styles were in full display. While the Pacers want to play physical as a brand, one they are not and should not be ashamed of, the Heat were retaliatory in a very malicious sense. Udonis Haslem's flagrant was suspension worthy alone, but adding in Pittman's elbow, it's clear there was an intention to hurt Stephenson for his choking comments. While James won't give Stephenson the time of day in public quotes, Pittman's reaction to the play suggests there may be more to it behind the scenes. The league will no doubt look at both cases deeper with suspensions looming for both players. Pittman's will be lengthy, but Haslem should also be looking at sitting out Game 6 as well.
As for the game itself, the Pacers ended the night shooting 33.7% while the Heat poured it on with 61.4%. The Heat dominated the game in transition, beating the Pacers 22-2 in fast break points and made it look easy by killing the Indiana offense on defense. Indiana had no hopes of getting anything inside with the way the Heat packed the inside and fronted Hibbert and West, but the Pacers didn't help the cause with lazy passing and indecisive passing. The ball movement wasn't crisp and Miami fed on it in a big way.
No one played well. David West struggled to start, Leandro Barbosa and George Hill spent a lot of time killing the offensive movement as many possessions were spent looking inside for 15-20 seconds with no movement around the horn just to have Barbosa jack a contested 35-footer with the shot clock expiring. Mario Chalmers ended up with 11 boards because of it, living on the long misses by the Pacers. Roy Hibbert looked great when he was able to get the ball and Danny Granger started the game hot, but the injury obviously limited his action.
The Pacers were continuously awful on pick and roll defense as James and Wade were able to get what they wanted. Even when the Pacers defense was good, the two found a way to put the ball in the basket in ridiculous fashion. It was a tough loss to take just because it puts the Pacers down 2-3 in the best of seven series. On the brink of elimination, Indiana will need to bring the same energy they brought early in the series, the same fight, and the same belief they can still win.
In blowouts, the series is notched at 1-1, so Indiana has to know and continue to believe they can blow out the Miami Heat in the same way they were worked tonight. Game 6 should bring out the Gold Swagger as the Pacers will look to extend the series back to Miami for a season defining Game 7 this weekend. Game 6 will be Thursday at 8 p.m. on ESPN. If you aren't able to make it to the Fieldhouse, be sure to offer this team the support they deserve as they look to grab a season saving win.