Now for those of you who have forgotten, or for those of you who have desperately tried, I am referring to game 3 of the eastern conference finals. where the pacers blew an early 15 point lead. Now it is hard for me to classify exactly where that moment was for the Pacers, but it was somewhere in the waning moments of the second quarter. The Pacers stumbled slightly to end the first quarter, but rebounded strong to start the second and had a sizable cushion with about 3 minutes to go in the period. The Heat rallied strong off of a few poor Pacers possessions and the Pacers found themselves up only 4 going into the half. While the Pacers had outplayed the Heat, for the most part, for the better part of the first 2 games, though they let the lead slip late in game 2, until this point late in the 2nd, the feeling was that the Pacers were in control of the series. They may not habe been beating the heat at every point, but the series felt like the Pacers were dictating the terms. Whenever Miami would make a run, someone would step up and stymie the bleeding. But in game 3, particularly the 2nd half, the Heat began to dictate the terms. That late run going into the half gave them the confidence to take control of the series... or the Pacers simply had given the up the control. The Heat responded after half with 61 to 45 onslaught where at times it never felt that close. The Pacers would make short runs to gain a little momentum, but now it was the Heat beating the Pacers back, rather than the alternative. Things changed in that game.
Now as we look at game 4, where the Heat went wire to wire with the lead, the difference felt even more real. Guys who had been down for the better part of the series were now making big plays. Chris Bosh who had been terrible for his career against the Pacers looked like the All -Star he is. Lebron James was attacking the rim with more ferocity than we had seen from him in the rest of the series. The Heat were pressuring the Pacers up and down the court and giving the game the feel of the uptempo style that favors the Heat, not the slow grind it out style that favors the Pacers. When the Pacers players said they felt like the Heat were getting all of the calls, I won't disagree, but that was because they were the ones controling the game. Yes the Pacers lost by 12, but with the exception of the run the pacers put on the last 9 minutes, this was a 20+ point blowout. The free throws didn't matter because Lebron and Wade were slicing holes through the defense, it didn't matter because Chris Bosh hitting outside shots opened up the middle of the lane for Dunk after Dunk. Yes, something was different in game 2 and it showed up in the stat sheet as FT's ,but it was more the control, the force that Miami now had on the series.
While I know this post has a feel of gloom and doom, and for the record it is rightfully so, the Pacers season does still have some hope. Game 3 represented, in my mind the Pacers season, they had complete control of Miami... had them exactly where they wanted them... and they panicked. They didn't know what to do. We saw this in January as the Pacers started a slow slide into mediocrity over the next 4 months when it appeared they were the NBA's best team, and we saw it Saturday night. The Pacers didn't know what to do when they were in control of the Heat. They were used to looking up at them, being the contender... the underdog... and most importantly, they didn't put them away when they had the chance. The Pacers face long odds when they come back to the field house tomorrow. Wether they get to play any more games will depend on how bad they want to win... how good of a job they do at getting control back in the series.
Thanks for reading,
-T.O. signing out