From the 8-0 Miami Heat start spurred entirely by Chris Bosh, the Indiana Pacers never looked like they were ready for this game, and it was documented in their wire-to-wire Game 4 loss. Indiana somehow made a game of it in the first half, despite a hefty amount of turnovers early and no free throw attempts for the first 21 minutes of action. The Pacers managed to cut the lead to just five heading into the break.
For as fortuitous as Indiana was to simply be down five, nothing in their effort suggested they had any chance of scoring the win. Their lackadaisical play on defense led to an abundance of whistles with bad positioning while on the offensive end, there was very little movement. Miami capitalized on turnovers and free throw opportunities, but also recognized the totality of the moment with their own effort, which they funneled into a 7-0 run to open the third quarter.
From there, it was off to the races for the Heat, who would push their lead up to 23 points with 7:41 remaining in the fourth. Lance Stephenson and Paul George pieced together a 13-1 run to put themselves in striking distance, but Bosh free throws late kept Miami in double figures as time ran short on Indiana's chances. The Pacers eventually fell 102-90, a score that, like the game, was closer than it ever appeared to be.
The most frustrating part about tonight's game wasn't so much the result (Indiana set themselves up in this position by failing to hold onto home court in Game 2), but how in what essentially amounts to a do or die game, how quickly the Pacers were willing to die. The failure to recognize the totality of the moment, the importance of a series shifting Game 4 absolutely doomed the Pacers in face of a team that wasn't willing to let their own home court advantage slip away.
The chasm of effort between the two teams made the post-game comments from Pacers players considerably perplexing, with Paul George going so far as to suggest the Pacers outplayed the Heat with the exception of the free throw disparity. Indiana didn't get to the line until the 2:59 mark of the second quarter and was out shot at the line 34-17. Indiana didn't help their case much by missing six of their 17 attempts while Miami missed only four themselves.
While the flow of the game and the 27-17 foul disparity certainly lends itself to complaints, the game was rewarded to the sharper team, much in the way it was during Game 1. The Pacers sluggish and uninterested play obviously set them up in a poor position defensively, which in turn put Miami at the line with much greater frequency. But as perplexing as George's comments were (the Pacers also had twice as many turnovers as the Heat, leading to 20 Miami points), Frank Vogel's comments about how he was pleased with the fight of his team may be even more delusional.
It was that very lack of fight that put them in a 23-point hole in the fourth quarter and it was that lack of fight that allowed the lazy defense to turn into a parade at the free throw line. It was Roy Hibbert and Lance Stephenson getting hampered with foul trouble early and scoring just a single point combined in the first three quarters, Hibbert picking up a(n albeit weak) technical foul early in the fourth to halt a(n albeit weak) Indiana run to end the third.
Stephenson had eight points in the fourth, but proved a complete no show until he found a rhythm in Indiana's late run. An unfortunate flop from Dwyane Wade wiped two more Stephenson points off the board that would've trimmed the Miami lead to single digits with over three minutes remaining, but even if that can be credited as a momentum killer, the Pacers should have never put themselves in that position.
Chris Bosh and LeBron James were fantastic for the Heat. Bosh broke out of his shooting struggles this series with a 17 point first half as part of a 25 point night, and James had an effortless 32 and 10 rebounds. Unfortunately, no one on the Pacers proved capable of matching wits with Miami's two best players tonight despite 20 point nights from Paul George and David West.
George had a team high 23, scoring nine in the fourth quarter as part of Indiana's run. West had 20 points and 12 rebounds, but continued to struggle against Rashard Lewis. Luis Scola provided solid minutes off the bench for a second consecutive game, scoring 12 on 6-8 shooting, but even eight attempts wasn't enough for as well as he was playing. Finding Scola was one of many issues the Pacers offense had tonight, and it's been disappointing watching the deterioration of their movement since Game 1.
For whatever the reason Indiana lost tonight, they did. It doesn't matter how many criticism fines Pacers players pick up or how many flopping fines Wade doesn't get, the Pacers are still going to be on the brink of elimination down 1-3 against the Heat. The series will shift back to Indianapolis for Game 5 on Wednesday and if Indiana still believes they have chances of winning the series, it begins with holding home court.