By CHRIS GOFF
Let’s take a quick look at how the Indiana Pacers lost 90-79 to the Miami Heat on Thursday night at AmericanAirlines Arena in Game 5 of the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals. The Heat lead the series 3-2.
WHY IT HAPPENED: The Pacers were the better team for a half, leading 44-40 at intermission, but shot 12-of-32 in a nightmarish second half and missed a golden opportunity to take a series lead with Dwyane Wade (right knee) and Chris Bosh (right ankle, knee) struggling with injuries. Paul George had 27 points, 11 rebounds and five assists, while Roy Hibbert added 22 points and six rebounds. David West chipped in 17 points and eight boards. The bench played poorly, the passing was careless, and the defenders were too often beaten off the dribble. LeBron James bounced back from a subpar Game 4 with a scintillating performance characterized by leadership in the huddle and all the statistical trimmings — 30 points, eight rebounds and six assists. Miami shot 51 percent from the field and finally saw some 3-pointers fall (7-of-19, 38.9 percent). The Pacers didn’t corral rebounds at their normal rate, letting Miami settle at 33-32 on the glass. Overall, it was a sloppy, uninspired performance in the biggest game of the season, and the Pacers looked more like the club that was 19-21 on the road this year than the team that played at stratospheric levels in the first two games of the series in South Florida.
WHAT WE LEARNED: Miami came out lethargic, sluggish, un-enthused and unfocused with Wade and Bosh looking hobbled and an offense seemingly going through the motions. An altercation between Chris Andersen and Tyler Hansbrough in which each were assessed technical fouls and Andersen was given a flagrant-1 seemed to be the remedy. On the next possession Andersen swatted a shot by Hansbrough out of bounds and that bit of quasi-revenge fired up the fans and the Heat. The Pacers’ offense collapsed in a 13-point, 3-of-14 third quarter in which Miami’s defensive energy hit the boiling point. Indiana was unable to feed Hibbert and West in the post as they combined for just five attempts in the period. Overall, only three Pacers played well — Hibbert, George and West — while George Hill and Lance Stephenson were awful. Hill managed a single point — on a technical free throw, no less — and Stephenson scored four late points before fouling out and burying his head in his hands on the bench. Now the Pacers are one loss from elimination.
KEY NUMBER: The Pacers committed 18 turnovers leading to 22 Miami points. The Heat found nine fast-break points in a contest they won by 11. Indiana also attempted just 15 free throws after averaging 26.9 attempts in their first eight road playoff games.
TURNING POINT: James scored or assisted on eight points in Miami’s 9-2 run early in the third quarter. The Heat took their first lead since the 8:40 mark of the first quarter and rode the momentum to a huge 12 minutes. Miami outscored the Pacers 30-13 in that decisive third quarter.
NEXT: The teams fly north for Game 6 on Saturday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The Pacers will be fighting for their playoff lives.