PLAYOFF SERIES: Eastern Conference semifinals; Pacers lead 2-0.
The Indiana Pacers are enjoying one of the most dominant postseasons in NBA history, and they don’t even think that they are playing well.
Indiana will look to continue its impressive romp through the playoffs when it meets the Miami Heat in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series.
Through their first six playoff games, the Pacers have barely been challenged. With a 91-80 win over the Heat in Game 2 on Saturday, Indiana set an NBA record by winning its sixth consecutive playoff game by a double-digit margin.
The previous record of five straight was shared by the 1947 Philadelphia Warriors and the 1985 Los Angeles Lakers.
Despite their recent success, the Pacers realize there is room for improvement.
“We can play much better,” Indiana guard Reggie Miller said. “We’re finding ways to win, which is encouraging, but we have to play better.”
After sweeping a first-round series against the Boston Celtics by an average of 16.8 points, the Pacers have had little trouble with the Heat.
Ron Artest, who scored 25 points in a 94-81 victory in Game 1 on Thursday, was impressive again Saturday. He had 20 points and five assists to help Indiana take a 2-0 lead.
Miller also proved that he has not lost his ability to take over playoff games. The 38-year-old guard was 6-for-10 from the field and scored 19 points in just 18 minutes.
“Reggie Miller just killed us,” Heat coach Stan Van Gundy said. “He’s done it before. We’re not the first team he’s done it to. It’s not a coincidence when he makes big shots.”
Miller hit a 3-pointer with 1.6 seconds remaining in the first half to give Indiana an eight-point lead. He then buried two more in the first 4:30 of the second half to help the Pacers stave off the Heat.
“He was playing within the offense and he was on fire,” Artest said. “It seems like he’s always on fire in big games.”
Miller’s contributions have become even more vital, because Miami has been able to hold All-Star forward Jermaine O’Neal in check.
O’Neal, who averaged 20.1 points and 10.0 rebounds during the regular season, is averaging just 15 points and eight boards in the series’ first two games.
He scored 17 points and shot 5-of-15 from the field Saturday and played just 29 points due to foul trouble.
“I’m putting too much pressure on myself to make things happen,” O’Neal said. “I just have to relax and let the game come to me.”
While O’Neal has struggled, Miller said the Pacers’ various offensive weapons make them very difficult to top.
“To put points on the board night-in and night-out, that’s Al (Harrington), Jermaine and Ron’s job,” Miller said. “There might be nights when they’re struggling and others that step up. That’s what makes our team hard to beat because you never know where it’s going to come from.”
Miami, which is shooting 39.4 percent through the first two games, is hoping a return to AmericanAirlines Arena will change its fortune. The Heat have won 16 consecutive games at home, but they know it will be tough to stop the Pacers.
“From where we’ve been, nothing bothers us now,” said Miami guard Dwyane Wade, who scored 19 points but had six turnovers Saturday. “This team, we don’t worry about anything. When we start playing our game, we know we’re a pretty tough team.”
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Pacers - 1st seed; beat Boston Celtics 4-0, first round. Heat - 4th seed; beat New Orleans Hornets 4-3, first round.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Pacers - Artest, 21.2 ppg; Harrington, 9.0 rpg; Tinsley, 6.3 apg. Heat - Wade, 16.6 ppg and 5.3 apg; Butler, 9.1 rpg.
REGULAR SEASON SERIES: Pacers, 3-0. O’Neal averaged 22.3 points and 12.6 rebounds to lead Indiana. Artest added 20 points and three steals per game for the Pacers, who hosted two games. Jones paced Miami with 15.6 points and 5.3 assists per game.