NBA East Finals Game 5
After steamrolling their way through the first two rounds of the NBA playoffs, the defending champs have finally met a worthy adversary in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Miami Heat dealt some punishing blows to the Indiana Pacers in games two and three, but unlike previous Heat foes, the Pacers have punched back, winning game four – which was a slugfest in and of itself – 99-92. Now, with the series knotted up at 2-2, control is back up for grabs in game five and the Heat say they are ready to reclaim it.
“We have a great locker room of Alpha competitors,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said Wednesday, according to ESPN.com. “And so they take this very seriously. We’re playing against a worthy opponent and if we don’t play well, they beat us. If they don’t play well and we impose our identity, we beat them. That’s what this is all about. So let’s lace`em up and let’s get ready for Game 5.”
After withstanding a late rally from the Heat in game four, it’s safe to say the Pacers are raring to go as well. However, they are fully aware that they are still the underdog against the defending champs and will need to surpass their previous outputs against Miami to capture the East title.
“We’ve got to be at our best,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said Wednesday. “Our intensity, our determination, our focus, we’ve got to keep getting better if we’re going to beat this team.”
To beat Miami, Indiana will have to continue to exploit its edge down low and on the backboards with center Roy Hibbert, who hasn’t been impeded much by the smaller Heat lineup. Hibbert has racked up three consecutive games of 20 or more points and 10 or more rebounds.
For the Heat, the gameplan is really less of a plan and more about executing what they do best, which is outrunning, outshooting and outscoring opponents. In game four, Miami simply turned the ball over too often and missed two many shots. Their 39 percent output from the field obviously wasn’t enough to get the job done.
Part of their recent ineffectiveness has been due to Indiana’s perimeter defense. The Pacers, who came into the postseason as the best three-point line defensive team, have limited Miami’s three-point specialists – Ray Allen and Shane Battier – to 7-0f-30 shooting from the arc. If the Heat are going to win the series, they’ll eventually need those two to contribute to the cause.
As far as game five goes, I’m looking for the Heat to bounce back with a victory. The return to their home floor will certainly help and a couple of days for Dwyane Wade to rest will as well, but we can also expect the league’s second best three-point shooting team to start knocking down some outside shots. However, Indiana’s great defense will still level the playing field, giving them a great chance to cover +7.5 today. Miami should pull off the win, but expect every game in this series from here on out to be very close and ubber-competitive.