INDIANAPOLIS – Miami Heat put LeBron James right in the middle of the action and this time, the Indiana Pacers didn’t have an answer for him or his Miami Heat teammates last night at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse Arena.
By moving James to the post, the Heat won the scoring battle in the paint, kept Indiana at arm’s length and pulled away for a 114-96 victory and a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.
“I made a conscious effort to get down in the post tonight, to put pressure on their defence,” James said. “The coaching staff wanted me to be down there tonight, and my teammates allowed me to do that.”
It was a move reminiscent of when the Los Angeles Lakers played Magic Johnson in the post in place of the injured Kareem Abdul-Jabbar during the NBA Finals more than two decades ago.And it worked just as well.
James rebounded from the two late turnovers that cost Miami in Game 2 by scoring 22 points, grabbing four rebounds and dishing out three assists. Hours after Dwyane Wade learned he would only be tagged with a flagrant foul from Game 2 and not a suspension, he finished with 18 points, eight assists and four rebounds. Chris Bosh added 15 points and three rebounds, and all five Miami starters reached double figures.
The move allowed Miami to outscore Indiana 56-32 in the paint.
Perhaps that much should be expected from a team with this much scoring punch and that has won 23 of its last 24 on the road.
The other stuff, not so much.Miami committed a playoff franchise-low one turnover in the first half and finished with only five. James finished with none.
The Heat shot 54.5 per cent against a team that finished the regular season with the NBA’s best defensive field goal percentage and also made 24-of-28 free throws. They matched the highest scoring output in a quarter during this season’s playoffs with 34, broke the franchise playoff record for points in a half (70) and fell one point short of tying the third-highest point total in a playoff game in franchise history.
Work on the inside
But the biggest difference between the first two games and last night’s rout was with James’ work on the inside.
“It was something we wanted to get to just to help settle us and get into a more aggressive attack,” coach Erik Spoelstra said of the decision to post up the 6-foot-8 James.
“We wanted to be a little more aggressive, a little more committed to getting into the paint and seeing what would happen. LeBron was very committed and focused not to settle.”
Now, with Game 4 scheduled for tomorrow, it’s the Pacers turn to adjust. David West led Indiana with 21 points and 10 rebounds, while Roy Hibbert had 20 points and 17 rebounds. Paul George finished with 13 points and eight assists, not nearly enough to keep the Pacers perfect at home in the postseason.