The Indiana Pacers used a familiar blueprint to grab a home win against the Miami Heat, one involving a healthy dose of size and Roy Hibbert. The big fella was his usual Versus Miami self in Indiana's 90-84 come from behind victory as he put up 24 points on 10-15 shooting, getting to the line six times, and making a winning impact on the game defensively in the second half. Indiana leaned on Hibbert all night, though the body shots, the bloody nose, the falls, Hibbert's night was Indiana's and even though it was just one win, any win over a team you're going directly against in the standings is a good win to get.
The Pacers found themselves on the wrong side of a late first quarter run, as the Heat outscored Indiana 15-2 to turn a tie game into a double digit advantage for Miami. Indiana struggled to find traction in the second quarter as the Heat went up 44-31 with 2:20 left in the first half. The Miami lead fueled by Indiana miscues as the Pacers simply couldn't hold onto the ball. Add in the team's frustration at the way the game was being officiated and Paul George's terrible first half, it appeared the team was going to be in serious need of an overhaul heading into the locker room if they had any hope of making a second half push.
Indiana had 13 first half turnovers, part of 21 on the night, which not only lent Miami 20 points, but remained a prevalent part of the game in the third quarter as the Pacers fought back from their deficit. Lance Stephenson drew up an 8-0 run to close the second and open the third that put Indiana to within two. The Pacers kept pushing towards the lead, but their turnovers continued to create opportunities for Miami.
Fortunately for Indiana, their defensive effort helped minimize any chance the Heat had of capitalizing off of Indiana's miscues, but it kept the door open even as Indiana finally grabbed the lead halfway through the third. The Pacers had six more turnovers in the third quarter, but were able to build upon their lead thanks to a better half from Paul George, who was blanked in the first half from the field at 0-4, scoring just two points from the line.
George had 15 second half points, including the last 10 points for the Pacers in the third quarter. The offensive explosion came after LeBron James picked up his third foul early in the third quarter, switching off of George, who proceeded to push the game in Indiana's favor once he hit his first field goal to put Indiana up five. George hit a pair of three pointers to close the quarter as part of 12 third quarter points.
George carried it over into the fourth with a late game three pointer to push the lead to nine, but George's mugging cost the Pacers immediately as Dwyane Wade opened up, catching George and the defense off guard, getting to the line for a pair of points. George showing emotion is certainly fine, but anything that causes a detriment to his or the team's defense certainly needs to be corralled in.
As a whole, there was little to complain about with George's second half effort. In addition to the offensive play that was freed up by James switching off of George, he and Hibbert did a fantastic job limiting the effectiveness of James on the other end of the floor, who had just seven second half points as part of his team high 17 points. James thrived on the boards with 14, but was unable to draw fouls against Hibbert's defense at the rim or hit his jumpers against George. Indiana did a tremendous job in the second half defensively, not only against James, but against Miami as a whole.
The Heat scored 30 first quarter points, but had just 37 in the second half as the Pacers won the last 24 minutes by 13. In addition to Hibbert and George's play, David West made it a showcase of Indiana's front court, scoring 17 points and grabbing a team high nine rebounds, shooting 6-8 from the field. He did have slippery fingers, however, leading the team with seven turnovers to go alongside George's six. West had three straight turnovers in the third quarter with the game tied.
Stephenson led the backcourt with 12 points, his play to close the second quarter and open the third was a huge boost for the Pacers. Indiana not only closed strong with Stephenson in the second quarter, but got a last second layup from C.J. Watson. Last second points can swing games and the Pacers were able to use it to their advantage with five points to close the first and second quarters. George Hill wasn't much of a factor scoring, but quietly made some solid plays to keep plays alive for Indiana with eight rebounds, six assists, and two steals.
The bench saw its fair share of struggles defensively, as foul calls put Luis Scola and Ian Mahinmi on the bench in the second quarter with each drawing three. Mahinmi's inability to stay on the floor due to fouls may be something of a running joke, but it's an issue Mahinmi needs to find a way to work through. Hibbert had just two fouls on the night, but Mahinmi being unable to spell Hibbert an extra couple of minutes int he first half could've proved disastrous.
Scola led the bench with seven points and Watson pitched in with six. Orlando Johnson stayed in Indiana's rotation despite his lackluster play. He found himself in position for a putback in the second quarter, but some more good looks gone awry certainly make his rotation spot look expendable right now. Whether or not Danny Granger will make his return this Friday, Johnson's slump does need to be looked at more closely in relation to Solomon Hill, who might share the same offensive struggles, but offers up a better defensive presence than Johnson usually does.
But it's not a real surprise Frank Vogel opted for Johnson over Hill in this game. Last season, Johnson entered the postseason playing better than Gerald Green and Sam Young, but Vogel hasn't proven willing to turn positive or negative play into big game exposure, hoping to limit the potential mistakes of a rookie in a game the Pacers might downplay, but still want to win, for someone you can at least expect to not lose the game for you.
It all came out in the wash regardless as Indiana were able to mount their 11th second half comeback of the year to beat the Heat and move to 19-3 on the season, 10-0 at home. Indiana's familiar success over the Heat were on full display on the boards with Indiana outrebounding Miami by 10. The turnovers, 21 on the night, were the biggest surprise for the Pacers, but it'll be something they'll be looking to clean up as soon as next Wednesday when Indiana travels to Miami for the second game of their season series.
Whatever the outcome of the game eight days from now, the Pacers still have a pair of games ahead of them. After a tough six game stretch that puts Indiana at 4-2, they'll earn a couple of days off at home before tipping against the Charlotte Bobcats at home on Friday. It'll be the home return of Cody Zeller and Josh McRoberts, as the Pacers will look to remain perfect at home and grab their 20th win of the season.