In a surprising turn of events, the Indiana Pacers pieced together a (near) perfect 48 minutes of basketball, resulting in a blowout win over the Miami Heat and the highest single game point total since 2017. The Pacers went ahead 32-30 at the end of the first and never looked back, building a double digit lead halfway through the second and cruising to the win with a dominant fourth quarter.
The Pacers were in position all night to respond to Miami runs, keeping the Heat from ever flipping the game in their advantage even when they were able to cut the game to a manageable deficit. Indiana did this despite an early rash of turnovers and foul trouble, sending Miami to the line nine times in the opening quarter.
Fortunately, the Pacers managed to iron out those issues, limiting the Heat to just 10 free throws the rest of the game and minimizing the damage done by their 17 turnovers by outscoring the Heat 23-18 in points off turnovers, including a 21-7 fast break advantage.
The ease in which Indiana scored is perhaps the most surprising. They shot 58.4% from the floor, including a staggering 20-36 from three point range, doing whatever the nuclear version of “water finding its level is.” In their last 10 games, the Pacers had just two games north of 40% shooting from deep, but they unloaded tonight, matching a franchise record.
All of that it made it easier to pile up the assist numbers, finishing with 38, their best since 2003. They also had 47 rebounds, their first rebounding win since February 17. Despite this, the Pacers still only led 68-58 at halftime, which at the time was both really good and fairly concerning, given how poorly the Heat had played overall.
The Pacers, however, kept the heat on the Heat, outscoring them 31-24 in the third and then scored a game-sealing 10 straight early in the fourth after Miami had sliced a 22-point Indiana lead to just 12. It ended up being a 20-2 run, putting Indiana ahead 130-110 with three minutes remaining in the game.
The Heat struggled much of the night and began getting a bit weird searching for answers defensively, pulling out plenty of zone and even double-teaming Jeremy Lamb and triple-teaming Caris LeVert, opening things up in a big way for the open Pacers shooters to convert at a staggering rate.
LeVert had just eight points, but Miami’s defense focus allowed a lot to happen around him, including a 27-point night from Malcolm Brogdon, who shot 10-12 and 7-9 from three, one of the Indiana Placers to benefit from the open looks. Domantas Sabonis also took a hit as a scorer, finishing with 13, but he was solid rebounding, finishing with 15, five on the offensive end.
T.J. McConnell meanwhile finished with a double double of 16 points and 15 assists, piecing together a near-perfecting outing himself with 8-9 shooting and three steals. The return of Lamb surely didn’t open things up that much, but his availability was a tremendous boost for the bench, scoring 12, hitting three triples.
Myles Turner and Doug McDermott also reached double figures (12 & 17 respectively), including a five block night from Turner, who did a fantastic job impacting the game defensively while saddled with three quick fouls in the first half, reversing course after an especially rough outing against Brooklyn in the same situation.
The only thing that could take away from this win is that the Pacers will have to do it again on Sunday afternoon, when they face the Heat again in Miami. The Heat will no doubt have a response lined up, even if that response is just shooting the ball from deep marginally better than the 9-34 they shot tonight.
It will be a nice test for Indiana, however, in seeing if they can string together consistency through four quarters again while also climbing back into the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Heading into tonight, the Pacers were 10th, trailing the 4th seeded Heat by four games. That didn’t change tonight, but can change on Sunday if they can complete the sweep.