There were a plethora of reasons why the Miami Heat should have lost to the Indiana Pacers last night. The stage was set by the Pacers’ win in Indiana over a week ago for Indiana to come into Miami and knock off the Heat on their home court, signaling a changing of the guard in the Eastern Conference.
The Heat were playing with their career leader in rebounds, Udonis Haslem, being limited. Shane Battier had been ineffective as of late. Dwyane Wade has been in and out of the lineup this season. LeBron James was playing with a left ankle that was compromised at best. The Pacers are younger, bigger, more physical, and off to the their best start since they joined the NBA. It was just one regular season game, number 25 of 82. If Miami had dropped this game all the Heat faithful could have reasoned with themselves as to why the loss wasn’t that big of a deal.
Miami’s players seemed to be the exception from the masses giving them a pass in this game. They overcame the momentum of Indiana’s win just a week ago. With Haslem only playing seven minutes, they outrebounded the Pacers 37-36. Battier didn’t score a single point in almost 15 minutes on the court, but in the final score it didn’t matter. The rest given to Wade seemed to help as he scored 32 on 15-of-25 shooting. James’ ankle didn’t stop him from scoring 24 points, grabbing nine rebounds and making seven assists. Miami’s older bench outscored Indiana’s 22-20.
Despite the facts that this was just one regular season game, the 25th out of 82, and that they will see the Pacers twice more this season, the Heat went all in on this game. Being down by seven points with just under three and a half minutes to play didn’t matter. The Big Three were huge again in this game as Chris Bosh sank a three-point shot with a minute and a half left to tie the game, his first make in 15 attempts. Since the 2011 Finals, every time this team has been put into a crunch situation when it had to win it has come through.
The quest to win a third consecutive NBA championship will present Miami with many more challenges. Despite age, injuries, lack of execution or size, this Heat team has proven an ability to find a way to come up on the winning end of the final score. If you want to dethrone these champions you are going to have to present even more of a championship effort yourself.