Aside from a much larger media contingent than usual in the Pacers post-game locker room, it would be hard to tell the Pacers had just beaten the Heat, 107-96 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.
The players were subdued and obliging the media without any additional excitement in their voice. After two years of early advantages against the Heat, winning three more games is the only thing the Pacers will consider celebrating.
"That's what we talked about right after the game,'' David West said. "We haven't accomplished anything except to get the first game on our home court. We know there's still a lot of basketball left to be played.''
Frank Vogel spoke similarly after praising his team's offense and admitting the defense could be better in what he called a "weird game" due to the Heat missing some good open looks while making some highly contested shots.
"It's a good start to the series, but it's just a good start," Frank Vogel said. "That's all it is. We gotta come back and expect a great fight in Game 2 and try to get Game 2."
Yes, Game 2 becomes the new biggest game of the season. Miami appeared to do a lot of experimenting with lineups, trying to find some odd matchups that might work. Miami started with Shane Battier on Paul George and LeBron James on West. They even went smaller but none of the different looks worked well for Miami, even when West unexpectedly had to chase Ray Allen around on defense.
Expect the Heat to settle into their comfort zone and if the Pacers falter at all trying to impose their will with the inside/out attack that was so strong in Game 1, then LeBron James will be ready to seize the opportunity. Twice in the LeBron era, the Heat have lost Game 1 on the road. First, in the 2011 ECF against Chicago in LeBron's first season and then again against Oklahoma City in the 2012 NBA Finals.
Both times, the Heat bounced back to win Game 2 and then the next three games to win both series in five games. Yep, Game 2 is now the most important game of the Pacers' season.
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