The Miami Heat may not need the full firepower of "The Big Three" to make their way to the 2012 NBA title, but the early returns suggest that they may miss Chris Bosh more than many pundits predicted. When Bosh went down with an abdominal strain during Game 1 of the Heat's second-round series with the Indiana Pacers, a common refrain was that LeBron James and Dwayne Wade would have little trouble holding off the Blue and Gold to advance to the Eastern Conference finals. After watching the Pacers battle the heavily favored Chicago Bulls in last year's playoffs and then improving dramatically in 2011-12, though, I was convinced that Indiana could play with the Heat even before Bosh was forced to sit out Game 2. So far, so good, as the Pacers rode a stingy defense to a 78-75 win on May 15 to tie the series at one game apiece as the teams head back home to Indianapolis.
I won't sugarcoat this victory, because the Pacers really weren't all that inspiring in an offensive performance that you could probably find in most any NCAA game. Forward David West led the way with 16 points and 10 rebounds, while George Hill chipped in 15. On the night, the Pacers shot just 38 percent from the floor and nearly gave the game away in the fourth quarter when they coughed up a big lead and were outscored by James and Wade. Although both Miami superstars missed chances to put the Heat ahead late, you can't discount the fact that the Pacers held their ballyhooed opponents to 35-percent shooting from the floor. You also probably shouldn't dismiss the notion that Bosh's absence played havoc with the Heat's game.
Without Bosh, Miami looks like a top-heavy and shallow team, with only two (very similar) players really capable of scoring on a consistent basis. In this game, no one outside of the big two scored more than five points, which undoubtedly put more pressure on LeBron and Wade and left them without enough gas to complete the comeback on their own. Indiana had just enough to hold off the charge and nail down a huge road win.
Coming home should be a nice elixir for the Pacers who now have the chance to really seize control of the series if they can work the atmosphere at Bankers Life Fieldhouse to their advantage. This will also be a great opportunity for Indiana fans to silence the growing criticism against us for not supporting a winning team. I've witnessed the foaming fervor that we can muster for pro basketball as the weather turns hot, and I expect to see that again when the teams tip off again on Thursday.
Adam Hughes was raised, and still lives, in rural Indiana. He has been a Pacers fan since the early 1980s and has witnessed the rise and fall of a great NBA franchise. He follows the current club closely and is happy to see the Pacers begin their next ascent.