The little things escaped the Indiana Pacers in familiar fashion, with the blue and gold running low on fumes late, resulting in a second overtime loss to the Miami Heat. The Pacers, who led 87-84 with just over a minute left, were unable to hold on. The Pacers surrendered the lead in the final five seconds when Dwyane Wade hit a pair of free throws to put Miami ahead by one.
On the other end, Monta Ellis was fouled by Wade, sending him to the line with under a second left and a chance to seal the win. But when his first free throw rimmed out, the best the Pacers could do was overtime, and the Pacers, on their third game in four nights, simply didn't have enough to keep pace with the Heat in the overtime period, eventually falling in spectacular fashion.
Indiana opened the game hot, taking a 14-point lead, but a terrible close to the first half allowed Miami to score 11 straight, creating a game the Pacers had a difficult time with in the second half. The Heat simply outworked Indiana for much of the second half, crushing the Pacers on the glass. Miami outrebounded Indiana 66-45, including 20 offensive rebounds, leading to an astounding 30 second chance points.
The second chance opportunities, fueled by Hassan Whiteside, was the difference in tonight's game, one that saw both teams shoot under 40% for the night. The physicality of the game in the fourth quarter was tremendous, both teams scrapping their way to hard fought baskets. Unfortunately for Indiana, the inability to come up with rebounds wasn't their only major struggle, with free throw shooting (obviously) playing a big role with Indiana missing nine on the night at 16-25.
Only Lavoy Allen (2-2) was perfect from the charity stripe and while Miami wasn't much better at 23-34, they were able to get contributions from Wade at the line (8-10) and big clutch free throws from Justice Winslow. The free throw shooting helped minimize the struggles Wade and Luol Deng had on the night shooting. The two were a combined 9-39, but compared to Indiana's own backcourt struggles, it was downright rosy.
Monta Ellis and George Hill were a combined 2-24, which is being kind to Hill, who actually went 0-7 and 1-2 from the line. Hill was questionable heading into tonight's game and offered very little when he did play, especially on the defensive end late against Goran Dragic. It was exactly the kind of game Indiana could've used Rodney Stuckey (or maybe even C.J. Miles?) to relive the struggling Hill and Ellis.
Frank Vogel did have a guard off the bench who did play very well. Joe Young had one of his best games since Myles Turner moved to the starting lineup, scoring 10 points on 5-9 shooting. But unlike Turner, who came up with big clutch plays (mixed in with some tough fouls and rookie mistakes) as part of his 16 points, Young hasn't earned the same trust in this situation.
The steadfast belief that either guard simply needed one to go in and the trust that they were capable of getting that one shot to go overrode the trust in Young, perhaps to a fault, especially in regards to Hill. Even with his struggles, Ellis still had a chance to win the game for the Pacers in regulation, but even a Joe Young in the heat of an intense, crucial regular season game as this, couldn't have been less of a threat than Hill was tonight.
The win wasted an otherwise solid game from Paul George, who had a 31 point, 11 rebound double double, coming up with three steals as well. Turner had his stretches of impressive play, but George was largely the team's only threat on the night. The Pacers were a woeful 5-15 from three point range, four of those coming from George (the fifth was from...wait for it...Chase Budinger!). But he was still as gassed as anyone.
As is generally the case with losses to the Heat, tonight's loss was especially tough because it takes away a head-to-head tiebreaker against Miami while also putting them two games behind the fourth place Heat. The silver lining is a winning road trip, but seeing a return to losing basketball late is disheartening after a pair of nice late-game wins. Indiana does return home for a trio of home games, beginning with the New York Knicks on Wednesday.