LeBron James and the Miami Heat look poised to make their third consecutive NBA Finals appearance. The league's MVP scored 18 points in the first half of Game 7 as the Heat took a 52-37 lead over the Pacers to the break.
James didn't get much of the ball early, but eventually made sure he'd make his difference, getting his 18 points on just nine shots. James' drives got Roy Hibbert in foul trouble, with the Pacers' defensively-brilliant center picking up his third with a few minutes to go in the second quarter. The Pacers struggled with a multifaceted defensive approach by Miami, turning the ball over a whopping 15 times. The Heat would go from down two at the end of the first quarter to up 15 at halftime.
The Heat had some offensive issues early on, with James not really a factor. He didn't shoot the ball for over seven minutes of game time, and his teammates didn't pick up the slack. The team went the entire first period without assisting on a basket.
But Miami was able to stay in it thanks to turnovers and offensive rebounds. They mixed up their schemes on defense, playing aggressively and flustering the Pacers into nine turnovers in the first period. They also grabbed six offensive rebounds to give them a 28-15 advantage in shot attempts. Indiana still led 21-19 after one.
But James finally began to start taking control -- scoring eight of 10 Heat points at one point and making an assist on a Ray Allen three, and finishing a huge transition alley-oop where he had to duck his head to avoid hitting the rim -- and soon, Miami led by seven. Indiana continued to turn the ball over, but Miami stopped missing, hitting seven of nine shots after missing 20 field goals in the first period. It didn't help that Miami took out Paul George and Roy Hibbert, a lineup choice that led to an 11-2 Miami run capped by a Chris Bosh three.
Satchel Price asked three questions about Game 7. Here are some early answers:
1. Will Bosh and Dwyane Wade disappoint again?
One for two isn't bad, right?
The Heat were clearly interested in getting Wade and Bosh the ball early, running much of their offense through the duo.Wade responded, looking pretty decent, much sprier than he has throughout the majority of the playoffs. He finished a few drives to the hoop, slammed a transition dunk off a steal and hit a floater to end the half, giving the team its largest lead. He had 10 points headed into the break.
Bosh, on the other hand, was awful, forcing eight shots in the first quarter -- a three, some ill-advised drives and stepbacks -- and only hit on one. He'd hit a stepback and a three on back-to-back possessions in the second, but overall had just seven points on 10 shots.
2. Can Miami's shooting touch return?
Ray Allen was, at long last, Ray Allen, hitting three of four threes he took. It's sort of a thing he's good at, and just getting him back would be spectacular. The rest of the team went just 1-for-8 from beyond the arc. Mike Miller, who was oddly the first Heat player off the bench, wasn't so hot, missing all three of his attempts
3. Will Birdman's return change rebounding battle?
Not Birdman solely. Chris Andersen did snag two offensive boards -- one an emphatic putback dunk, followed by much fake flapping -- which isn't really much in the grand scheme of things. But the Heat as a whole snagged a nice percentage of their misses, grabbing nine offensive rebounds for a decent helping of second-chance points.