The Indiana Pacers dropped a second heartbreaking loss in as many nights, this time a 109-100 loss to the Miami Heat. The Pacers will stay on the road, heading to Texas for games with Dallas and Houston. Like the Pacers, I too am hitting the road tomorrow for the rest of the week. With travel prep in full swing, I decided to write up my thoughts as the game was in progress.
The Pacers outscored the Heat 18-6 in the paint in the first quarter as their offensive execution opened up plenty of easy looks around the basket. While the Heat came out with a burst of energy, the Pacers eased their way through the first few minutes before they found a rhythm and put up yet another big first quarter with 31 points.
The Pacers backed up their first quarter effort to go to the half with a 60-48 point lead. Dwyane Wade was doing all he could with 20 first half points including two big threes in the final minute to keep the Heat within shouting distance.
The Pacers played one of their best halves of basketball all year. The defense was strong and swarming. Wade had 20, but he had to work for it and the Pacers challenged a lot of shots FG%.
On offense, it was a JOB clinic. The ball movement and motion was exactly what makes the Pacers offense work. Extra passes for layups were plentiful (14 assists at the half). Combine that with three Danny Granger 3-balls and it was just a great all-around effort.
I realize this is unnecessary, but I have to lay out a little admiration for Dwyane Wade. The guy has a way of getting the defense to lean off balance and draw fouls. It was driving me nuts in the first half because I kept thinking, man, you can't breathe on Wade without a foul being called. Then they'd show the slow-motion replay and sure enough he had the defense leaning or reaching for a legit foul.
Maybe it's the added dramatics he includes that makes it seem like he's not really fouled. I had to laugh with 1:25 left in the half when Wade started driving toward the hoop and lost the ball out of bounds. Foster was standing still, but Wade threw his hands up in disbelief that no foul was called. Again, I thought, this guy is shameless. But, sure enough, the replay showed Granger raking his right arm quickly. At that point, I vowed to always give D-Wade the benefit of the doubt.
After the great first half, the Pacers came out flat, front rimming shots, turning the ball over. Meanwhile the Heat were going full throttle and cut the lead to 62-60. The assertive team controlling the action was now Miami.
Where did all the movement go? Both the ball and players were stuck looking around. Perfect illustration: Danny Granger holds the ball on the right wing, 19 feet from the bucket. Granger holds the ball, no one is open, he holds the ball and then finally shoots a contested shot which misses. Yuck.
T.J. Ford finally hit a three to stop the bleeding. But Beasley was awake, Haslem was engaged so D-Wade had a supporting cast actually lending some support. Suddenly, this game was a battle royale.
T.J. Ford's favorite TV show is Martin.
Marquis Daniels was nothing short of spectacular (except when launching 3-balls) in helping stave off the Heat in the third. He dipped into the sweet unorthodox repertoir to get to the hoop, highlighted by a one-handed catch and finish on a long fast break pass from Jack. Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne would've dropped their jaw if they saw it.
JOB went to the bench to get the offense going and they responded. Jack, Foster and B-Rush were able to get things moving. It turned out to be a wild third quarter and when the buzzer sounded the Heat had tied the game at 79.
For a second game in a row, Brandon Rush looks real assertive and much more comfortable on the court. Tonight he has 10 points, making both 3-ball attempts and bringing a great effort on defense.
The fourth quarter started poorly with Danny Granger getting dinged on a drive forcing to leave the game and head back to the locker room. With D-Wade ready for winning time, the fourth quarter fade felt imminent.
While Quisy does what he can, D-Wade has that swagger going. I don't like seeing that swagger.
Granger returned to the court and hit a long three, but the Pacers struggled to get back on top of the lead. After Rasho and Quisy both went 1-2 on trips to the line, the lead was 97-95 Miami. Little things.
Meanwhile at the other end, D-Wade splashed his free throws to extend the lead to four. Time is running out.
Granger tried to carry the Pacers home from there. He drained a 3-ball to cut the lead to one, but then coughed up two turnovers in succession that resulted in break away dunks for Miami. 13 second half turnovers by the Pacers is all you need to know about how this game slipped away.
Here we are again with another solid effort, this time on the road against a team the Pacers hope to battle for a playoff spot. But the little mistakes add up down the stretch, while a bona fide NBA superstar closes the game out for the opposition. Too good.
Another excruciating loss for the tough luck kids in blue and gold. One of these nights they'll make their own luck.