Updated: May 16, 2012, 7:33 AM ET

1. Heat's Game 2 Loss Opens The Floodgates

By Brian Windhorst
ESPN.com

MIAMI -- The display the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat put on in Game 2 was short on beauty, but whoa, did it open a trove of intrigue.

This series didn't just get started; it got suddenly interesting in the wake of the Pacers' 78-75 win. The Pacers, of course, now have the momentum and the home-court advantage. The Heat, of course, are facing some doubt, after their first foray without the injured Chris Bosh was an offensive disaster that may not have a simple fix.

As the Heat dragged themselves off the court and absorbed their first home loss in the Eastern Conference playoffs in the Big Three era, the Pacers did a little celebrating at center court. One game is just that, but it was hard not to miss that the talent level between the two teams suddenly looked a lot closer. It could mean this series is going to be a lot longer than once expected.

In between those broad realities, though, there were plenty of hooks in the way the game played out and what it might mean for the immediate future. Plus plenty of areas to debate, the essence of any good playoff game.

The Heat got 28 points from LeBron James and 24 points from Dwyane Wade. Combined, they had 21 points in a vigorous fourth-quarter comeback attempt. But they both came up short at crucial moments, seeming to undercut the whole thing.

Wade blew a layup with 16 seconds left that would've tied the game. He also had a second consecutive miserable shooting game, going 8-of-22. His jump shot has completely deserted him in the playoffs thus far. He's 12-of-49 (25 percent) on jumpers in the postseason and 4-of-19 (21 percent) in the two games against the Pacers.

"If we had to do it all over again, we would all take [the same shots]," Wade said. "I thought we got some good looks; we just missed them."

[+] EnlargeLeBron James
Issac Baldizon/Getty Images

James, meanwhile, had 10 points, 6 rebounds and 3 steals in the fourth quarter. But he missed two free throws that could've given the Heat the lead with 54 seconds left. Then he was not involved, either by choice or design, in the final two Heat plays with the game on the line. All of which brought back the old narrative of his struggles at the end of close games.

"You go, you practice them and you go to up to the free throw line and you shoot them how you practice them," said James, who is just 10-of-17 on free throws in the final minute of one-possession games this season. "You hope for them to go in, but the last two didn't go for me. The game is not lost or won with those two free throws. You want to come through for your teammates. I'll get an opportunity again."

All of that could create some strong opinions. Especially with coach Erik Spoelstra choosing to go with Mario Chalmers for the final shot of the game with the Heat down three points.

Chalmers has a strong history of clutch 3-point shots, including one to force overtime in the NBA Finals last year and his famous 3-pointer that forced overtime in the 2008 NCAA title game. But he missed, one of the 15 misses in 16 tries the Heat had from 3-point range on the night.

All those events in the game's final minute bring up some of the same questions. Did James not attack when he got the ball on the penultimate play because he didn't want to be fouled again and go to the line? Should Spoelstra have gone with one of his two stars on the final shot no matter the percentages?

The more pressing issue for the Heat, however, has to be that they didn't come close to replacing Bosh's 18 points and 8 rebounds. The Pacers won the rebound battle by 10, and the Heat players not named Wade or James managed 23 points on 9-of-34 shooting.

No matter how much you break down the final stretch, the Heat won't win the series with that sort of effort from their so-called supporting cast. They were just as bad in Game 1, as the non-All-Stars scored 21 points on 7-of-22 shooting.

Which brings it back to the Pacers, whose plan to win this series with depth and spreading responsibility around is starting to look more viable.

Coach Frank Vogel said Tuesday that in reviewing film he had a revelation: The small lineups the Heat use without Bosh, with James or Shane Battier playing power forward, was akin to playing the Orlando Magic's small Dwight Howard-less lineup in the last round.

It's not a duplicate, of course, but the Pacers pretty much dominated the Magic by matching those small lineups with their own. So instead of going the natural route and using his team's size advantage, Vogel went the other way and played smaller lineups to match the Heat.

Roy Hibbert saw his shots cut in half. Tyler Hansbrough and Louis Amundson, the backup big men, did not even play in the second half. Instead, the Pacers relied on guard-heavy lineups.

Danny Granger and Paul George played better at both ends (they couldn't have played worse in Game 1); George Hill stayed out of foul trouble and his versatility was very effective; and David West was excellent down the stretch with seven vital points in the fourth quarter.

Add in a couple of clutch baskets by Darren Collison and Leandro Barbosa and it was a well-earned win. Now, the Pacers don't just have a tied series, but a game plan they feel can work against the retooled and Bosh-less Heat.

"Guarding the Magic's spread offense for that entire series really helped us understand how to slow their small lineup down," Vogel said. "Our guys competed harder tonight than they probably have the entire season."


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