It only took 73 games before the Miami Heat crawled into sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference for the first time this season — a move that had some fans torn between being happy for the apparent breakdown of the Indiana Pacers or sad that the team is stumbling out of the easy route.
And from the look on LeBron James’ face the last couple of games, he could care less about the easy route or the Heat’s use of 20 different starting lineups; he is on a mission to get fitted for a third straight NBA ring.
A stoic Mount Rushmore-stone face has replaced his pregame smile while he stands too far away from anyone to even engage in the normal tipoff hugs and handshakes. The dunks have been more ferocious and he’s taken to running through people if he cannot run around them (See: Kyle Lowry and Roy Hibbert).
Call it the type of focus that has the Pacers’ pride in their shoes right now. Not necessarily because of James and company, but because — as Chris Bosh said — Indiana has been talking about first place since August. And with every loss you could hear their hearts breaking through their voices.
It started right before All-Star break when Miami pulled within two and a half games and continued through a month where they failed to reach 80 points in six of their last seven contests, while shooting under 40 percent for six of them.
Now we hear Pacers’ grievances leaking out about a fractured locker room and players going at each other. But before Heat fans get to happy, realize that there are still nine games left and Miami has not been the most stable team either.