Following the Miami Heat's 97-93 loss in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Indiana Pacers, LeBron James had to feel a bit like he was back in Cleveland. James scored 36 points, but got little help from his teammates as the Pacers tied up the series at 1-1. The situation would play out much differently in Game 3, as Chris Andersen, Udonis Haslem and the Heat role players made major contributions in a 114-96 victory.
Andersen had nine points and nine rebounds while extending his consecutive-field-goals-made streak to 16. He has made all 13 shots that he has taken this series, with all 13 of those makes coming in the restricted area. Andersen's recent performance has been nothing short of remarkable, especially for a guy who was sitting at home without a team earlier in the season.
Nearly as impressive as Birdman's recent run was the play of Haslem. The veteran big man had just three points in the first two games of the series, but he came out and knocked down four early shots to help the Heat get off to a fast start.
Haslem finished the game with 17 points on 8-of-9 shooting, with five of his makes coming from the same spot in the left corner. This is not the first time Haslem has stepped up big in the postseason against the Pacers, as he had 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting in a Game 4 victory last year. He then followed that up with a ten-point effort in Game 5.
Mario Chalmers also stepped up big in a supporting role, scoring 14 points on 4-of-6 shooting and 6-of-7 from the free throw line. Chalmers scored seven of his points during a crucial third quarter stretch when the Pacers threatened to make a run to get back in the game.
The Heat are always dangerous thanks to the play of James and his fellow stars. But when the role players step up, they are just about unbeatable. If Ray Allen and Shane Battier can find their shooting strokes, it's pretty much a wrap.