Dwyane Wade had 41 points, 31 of them in the first half, as the Miami Heat crawled past the hot Indiana Pacers 110-103. The Heat opened up a huge first-half lead -- they led 37-13 after 10 minutes of play. But the Pacers stormed back before halftime, and hung close all through the second half. A 13-4 Miami run fueled by LeBron James and Chris Bosh late in the fourth put the game away.
The Pacers have lost just twice under interim head coach Frank Vogel, both times to Miami. Indiana dropped a game to the Heat by five points a week ago; Vogel has led the Pacers to victory in the team's seven other games since taking over for Jim O'Brien.
Vogel has been pretty great at making adjustments; Wade shot 12-19 in the first half, but just 4-10 in the second half. Vogel relied heavily on rookie wing Paul George, who started in front of Mike Dunleavy in the third quarter and played 18 second-half minutes (compared to Dunleavy's three). George rewarded the coach with some scoring punch (11 second-half points) and better defense on Wade.
George was a part of a wildly successful bench unit also starring Dahntay Jones, A.J. Price, Tyler Hansbrough and Jeff Foster. Tom Lewis of SB Nation's Pacers blog Indy Cornrows gives the unit its due.
They epitomized the blood and guts, smash-mouth effort coach Frank Vogel preaches, picking the team up off the canvas to start throwing hay-makers at the Heat. What was once a 24-point deficit eventually became a 5-point lead for the Pacers which simply doesn't happen without the second unit coming together and going to work. As the chemistry of this group continues to develop, they've become a big asset.
But the Heat are simply far more talented than the Pacers, and there's no way to strategize around that. One incarnation of the awesome raw power of the Heat was an absurd 90-foot (not an exaggeration) alley-oop from Wade to LeBron.
How do you stop something like that? Station Gheorge Muresan at the rim and order him to not move?
The Heat remain percentage points behind the Boston Celtics for the No. 1 seed in the East. They do, however, now have the league's top margin of victory at +7.82 points per game, ahead of the San Antonio Spurs at +7.44.