Led by Ray Allen's sparkling shooting performance, the Heat rebounded from an awful start and pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 99-87 Game 3 victory. They now lead the Pacers, 2-1.
5 things to know
The return of Jesus Shuttlesworth
Ray Allen was brought to Miami to be the ultimate long-distance mercenary. The greatest three-point shooter in NBA history may not deliver knockout punches on a nightly basis at this stage of his career, but he sure can come through when he's needed the most. Allen tore apart a stingy Indiana Pacers defense content on packing the paint, allowing Miami to pull away in the fourth quarter of Game 3.
Allen made it rain throughout the final frame, connecting on all of his attempts and stomping out a Pacers rally. The Heat took a 10-point lead into the final 12 minutes that Indiana managed whittle down to two points with 8:37 left, but Allen followed up his first make with three more. Before you knew it, a one-possession game turned into a 15-point Heat lead with three minutes to go. Too soon for hand down, man down jokes?
The Heat don't have as many consistent three-point shooters as in years past, so they need this type of production from Allen. He can spread the defense thin and create space at the rim for LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to attack. The Heat sure could use a few more of those vintage performances. -Andrew Garrison
Indiana's big giveaway
Indiana's struggle is almost always on offense, where the team ranked in the bottom third of the league in the regular season. A particular problem all year has been turnovers. The Pacers committed turnovers with the fifth highest frequency this year, and coughing up the ball may have cost them Game 3 in Miami. The Pacers finished with 17 turnovers, with 12 of those coming in the first half and eight of them in the second quarter alone.
How big an impact did that sloppiness have? Indiana shot 53 percent in the first half, but only went into the break with 42 points because of all the giveaways. Miami was able to stay close despite shooting horribly early on and having turnover problems of their own. That narrow gap was broken in the third quarter as the Heat warmed up, and Indiana fell apart in the fourth.
There's much to be said of Indiana's offensive balance, how it relies on all five starters plus a couple of reserves to click. One of the problems with that is when a couple of those cogs get harassed into making bad decisions. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade smelled blood and attacked defensively -- they combined for seven steals, often by reading the passing lanes of David West and George Hill or attacking the pick-and-roll aggressively. How the Pacers adjust their offense in Game 4 to protect the ball could decide whether we're getting a long series in the East. -Tom Ziller
Going small to win big
The Pacers' ethos are very clear: they stay big no matter what. When another team goes small, they don't flinch. Playing the way they know to play best is so important that they're willing to live with the weird matchups that result.
It's this stubbornness that forced the lumbering David West to chase Ray Allen around when the Heat threw down their small lineup card with eight and a half minutes to go in the game. The Pacers needed to keep Paul George on LeBron James and chose to play Roy Hibbert on Chris Bosh and Lance Stephenson on Dwyane Wade. That left West to cover Allen, and it did not go well. It's very difficult for even the best perimeter defenders to stay with Allen off the ball and in transition. It's suicide asking a big power forward like West to do it. West couldn't make the Heat pay for going small at the other end, and Miami closed the game on a 23-8 run.
The Heat will likely use the same small lineup to finish games in the future, so how does Indiana respond? Will Frank Vogel try to hide West on the less-threatening Norris Cole in an even weirder big/small matchup? Does he take his chances with West guarding LeBron or Wade? (I'd give this lots of consideration). Does he do nothing and hope for better results? Or, does take Hibbert or West out and go against his tired and true philosophy of staying big under any circumstance?
It was the first time all series that Miami dictated Indiana's terms. The Pacers had forced Miami to play bigger lineups in the first two games, but failed miserably in Game 3 and have an uncomfortable decision to make the next time Miami uses that closing unit. -Mike Prada
Vintage Dwyane Wade
Dwyane Wade didn't miss 28 regular season games with one injury in particular. His absence during those random weekday nights in January was always by design with an eye on the postseason; the Heat called it a "maintenance program" for a reason.
It's why the Heat's fastball was an unknown heading into the playoffs following a mediocre 17-14 finish. Miami is said to have an on/off switch it can activate at will, but that's really coded language for having Wade playing at something close to 100 percent next to LeBron James. When the Heat stars are healthy and engaged, the switch flips itself.
Wade has been a killer in the second half throughout this series, and the trend continued in Game 3. His dagger three-pointer at the end of the third quarter gave the Heat a seven-point advantage going into the final period. Miami's devastating small lineup took it from there.
Miami has to be pleased with the early returns on one of its biggest question marks heading into the postseason. The way Wade's playing now -- knifing through the lane and making a living from the mid-range area -- sure looks a lot like the way he played when he was/is among the best players in the league for a long, long time. -Ricky O'Donnell
The pointless war on hockey assists
At one point during Game 3, Paul George made a pass to a teammate, who immediately passed again to another Pacer for a score. Mike Breen brought up the idea of recording hockey assists in the NBA, which are actually already recorded and made public via SportVU. Mark Jackson vociferously opposed the idea on account that it wouldn't be fair to the legends of the game who never had an opportunity to also rack up hockey assists. Breen explained that it'd be a separate category, but it did not matter. Jackson would have none of it.
What an amazing position to take! With this kind of anti-information thinking, we wouldn't have gained turnovers in the box score in 1970, or blocks and steals in 1973. (Never mind adding a whole new way to score -- the three-pointer -- in 1979. How unfair was that to Jerry West?)
Forget about being anti-analytics: this is like the fundamentalist version of that. Not only should data be ignored in decision-making, but the data shouldn't even be collected in the first place. (It's worth nothing that Jeff Van Gundy cheered on Jackson's crusade, and Breen eventually agreed that it would be unfair to begin recording the stat now.)
I like to imagine a proto-Jackson arguing against blocks in 1973, as if counting them for future generations would make us forget that Bill Russell was one of the greatest defenders ever. Give fans a little credit, please. We're not going to forget that Jackson is No. 4 on the all-time assists leaderboard if we start counting hockey assists. -Tom Ziller
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