The stakes are higher but the scene is eerily similar. Last year in the second round of the playoffs, the Pacers hosted Game 3, coming off of a big Game 2 win with a 1-1 series against the Miami Heat.
The situation in Game 3 tonight is similar but the circumstances have changed drastically. For one, the teams are playing in the Eastern Conference finals. But more importantly, the Pacers are playing to win with a firm belief they can grab three more W's from the Heat.
As Mike Wells points out today, the celebration following their Game 2 win last season (as shown in the image above) revealed a team quite happy to be where they were without the experience to handle raised expectation. Now David West has full control of the team's mentality and the big goals the Pacers are chasing.
"We've been through this before as a group," West said. "There's just no need to celebrate. We won a game that we prepared for, we played hard and competed. We felt like we put in enough work to win. And we did."
Much of the focus while waiting for the tip surrounds Dwyane Wade. For one, will he face a suspension for his flying elbow to the head of Lance Stephenson. Also, if he plays, can he give LeBron James more help. James has been spectacular and his Game 3 effort was about as good as it gets. Just wasn't good enough to close the deal for the Heat.
Wade was struggling early in the series last year before coming to life in Game 4 at the Fieldhouse. You have to assume that otherworldly effort from James will remain, but the Pacers, and in particular Paul George, Roy Hibbert and George Hill have to continue to bring it on a consistent basis. If not, blow out city the wrong way. Three more epic efforts and...well...wow, good times in the Circle City.
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