1. Heat's Game 2 Loss Opens The Floodgates
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."
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.
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."
2. Around The Association
Recap | Box score
MVP: Tim Duncan. It was a classic Spurs win, a total team victory set up by crisp ball movement and smart defense, but Duncan (26 points, 10 rebounds) was at the center of everything. He made shots early and late, providing an answer any time the Clippers made a run. His presence opened things up for San Antonio's shooters on the outside.
LVP: Chris Paul. The Clippers need Paul to be at his best to beat the Spurs when they are clicking, but he was far from that. He wasn't even the best point guard on his team -- that was Eric Bledsoe, who had 23 points. Paul turned the ball over five times and never found a flow on offense, going 3-for-13 with only six points.
X factor: Three-point shooting. The Spurs shot 52 percent from deep and tied a franchise playoff high with 13 long balls. On a night when Tony Parker struggled mightily with his shot, they went to a tried and true formula of sharp ball movement and good spacing to blitz the Clips.
Recap | Box score
MVP: David West (16 points, 10 rebounds). Truthfully, it was team defense that won this game for Indiana but West was determined to get the ball into the paint late and his mentality became contagious. That -- and West's seven fourth-quarter points -- was the difference.
Defining moment: Dwyane Wade's flagrant foul. In frustration after a whistle didn't go his way, Wade threw a running shoulder into the back of Darren Collison on the break. The game then grew increasingly intense, and that seemed to fuel Indiana's focused execution while Miami continued to try to spin its wheels with ineffective isolation.
That was weird: Both teams went on bizarre scoring droughts and missed a ton of free throws down the stretch. Meanwhile, in the second half, Indiana took complete control over a game that, even deep into the second quarter, felt like it should have been a 25-point Miami win.
3. Tuesday's Best
Tim Duncan, Spurs: The 36-year-old looked like a regular Jack LaLanne in Game 1, putting up 26 points and 10 rebounds on the Clippers' frontcourt, his first 20-point playoff game since 2010. Must be the Power Juicer
4. Tuesday's Worst
Chris Paul, Clippers: Paul looked uncomfortable in San Antonio, and not just because of that unwieldy playoff beard. CP finished with just six points on 3-for-13 shooting, 10 assists, 5 steals and 5 turnovers in the Clippers' Game 1 loss.
5. NBA Video Channel
6. Tweet Of The Night
7. Dunk Of The Night
8. Quote Of The Night
"The game is not lost or won with two free throws. But I definitely want to come through for my teammates. So I'll get an opportunity again. I know I'll be at the line again in that situation. Just go up and make 'em."
-- LeBron James, on missing two free throws at the end of the Heat's Game 2 loss to the Pacers.
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