In a game that saw Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh play roughly 4 minutes more than their season average, the playoff game-type feel was apparent. Although Miami shied away from the idea that this game was more than just another regular season game, the Pacers did not. The Pacers won 90-84 but in the days leading up to this game, the Pacers made it apparent the significance of playing the Heat. The Pacers feel that every game could mean the difference between playing a game 7 in Miami or Indianapolis. It appeared that the Heat would have the early laugh in the series of 4 regular season matchups that sees them play in little over a week in Miami.
At the game’s midway point, the Pacers went into the locker room down 7. Paul George had scored a mere two points and the Pacers struggled with turnovers that had put them in a hole. It seemed that the Pacers may have overplayed the moment and an off night coming off a 6 six game western conference road trip was at hand. But unlike years past, this years Pacers team regrouped and came out firing in the 2nd half. “I knew it was the kind of night it was going to be then,” George said. “At that point I knew I just had to run him. I couldn’t allow him to load up on me”.
The 2nd half saw the Pacers limit the turnovers that had put them in an early hole. Lebron began to tire and had to be switched off of Paul George, freeing him to score the 15 of his 17 points in the game. And in one swift possession, the difference between last year and this year in this rivalry was apparent. Newly acquired point guard CJ Watson had stolen the ball, raced up the court and put a beautiful move on Norris Cole before finishing at the rim. CJ Watson has quickly made DJ Augustine the most forgotten backup point guard in Pacers history. Louis Scola, also acquired in the off-season, showed a mid-range jump shot and low-post moves that had been lacking with Tyler Hansbourgh. Indiana’s upgraded bench will be the key the rest of the way.
Roy Hibbert returned back to his playoff form that he showed against Miami last season in the playoffs, finishing with 24 points and altering plenty of shots at the rim that have made him a prime candidate for defensive player of the year. “When they go big-big instead of small-big with Bosh and the Duke guy — what’s his name? oh, Shane Battier — it allowed me to roam free a little bit,” Hibbert said. “We always stay big and we make teams adjust to us.” Hibbert is forgetting players on the Heat, and soon the Heat’s dream of a championship may be forgotten as well.