The Indiana Pacers looked like they might be on their way to putting the Miami Heat into a 3-1 deficit at halftime of Sunday afternoon's game, but Dwyane Wade and LeBron James had other ideas. Miami's pair of superstars put together the best combined game they've had in this year's NBA Playoffs, pulling out a 101-93 victory to force at least two more games in the seven-game series.
James got quite a bit of credit for his performance that included 40 points, 18 rebounds and nine assists -- and was well-deserving of all of it, mind you -- but he and Wade probably deserved equal praise in helping Miami to tie the series.
The Heat's two superstars put together a marvelous stretch in the third quarter to give Miami a lead the team would never relinquish. James and Wade scored 38 straight points for the Heat at one point, turning a eight-point halftime deficit into an advantage that crested at 10. What was most impressive about the stretch was that James and Wade didn't devolve into the "my turn, your turn" offense; they synergized and made hard cuts to the basket for easy buckets.
It wasn't just James and Wade that showed up to play for the Heat, however, as Udonis Haslem was able to make an impact after being pretty quiet since Miami lost starting big man Chris Bosh due to injury.
The 3-time MVP and his superstar buddy combined for 70 points and filled the stat sheet, but Udonis Haslem made several clutch baskets to keep Indiana at bay in the fourth quarter. The veteran's performance was reminiscent of his breakout game last season in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals, making a thunderous put-back dunk in the second quarter. Haslem has struggled with his mid-range shot all season long, but he made four jumpers in the final stanza of play, the last one extending the Heat's lead to 98-91 with 71 seconds left. Haslem made the shots Bosh usually makes, and it was good that the 6-foot-8 Miami native didn't hesitate on any one of them.
As good as Miami was in the second half, equal blame could be placed on the Pacers for getting away from what had been working for them prior to halftime. Our Indiana Pacers blog Indy Cornrolls noted that the Pacers didn't put up much of a fight against the performance Wade and James put together in crunch time.
James and Wade dominated the Pacers in the third quarter as Indiana suffered through one and outs, poor defensive rotations, and some light foul trouble, but for really the first time in the series, Miami appeared to be the aggressors, not only on the offensive side, but the defensive side. Before you could blink, the 8-point halftime lead turned into a 10-point deficit, Miami's first double digit lead in the series as Miami Pacer'd the Pacers in the third quarter to win 30-16.
Despite the struggles, Indiana still had plenty of opportunities in the fourth quarter, but the defense simply wouldn't hold up. As the fourth quarter wore on and the Pacers responded positively to Miami runs, it was always about the stops they couldn't get. When the starters returned, turnovers had been an issue to the point where they couldn't get enough shots, and when they did get shots, they were one and done on every possession.
It'll be interesting to see what happens next in the series, but if the second-half performances carry over into Game 5, it might not be pretty for the Pacers.