Miami Heat 115, Indiana Pacers 83 (Heat lead series, 3-2)
When the prognosticators started putting together their predictions for this series-swingin' Game 5, most leaned heavily on a Miami blowout win, and while I understood that educated guesswork, I didn't agree with it. Yes, NBA history often points to a big home team win in these sorts of games, but nothing had really changed in the Miami and Indiana rotation to make me think that this wasn't going to be yet another tough, close game. Just as we saw in Games 1 through 4, the Heat have mostly struggled without Chris Bosh providing spacing, and Indiana's defense wouldn't choose this time to take a break, would it? And though the Heat are fantastic, it's hard to overcome the presence of those (like starting center Ronny Turiaf and Shane Battier) who don't have to be guarded, right?
Well, Indiana's defense was actually pretty stout. They forced the Heat into tough shots and made Miami move the ball. And after that movement the Heat started, with Shane Battier leading the way, hitting the long range shots they hadn't earlier in the series. Good start for Miami (with Battier dropping nine points in the first quarter after eight points in the first four games), but still good enough Indiana defense in the halfcourt.
The Indiana offense? That's what destroyed the Pacers. Awful, awful decisions, spacing, a lack of patience and no impact once the team attempted to get in transition. As a result, even though the Heat's halfcourt offense wasn't especially astonishing (not until the Pacers gave up in the fourth quarter, at least), the team still piled up a whopping 115 points.
Indiana has major problems, offensively. The team reacted like it had never seen a fronting defense in its life, showcased no patience for when the Heat took away their initial option, and Shane Battier shut down David West in this game. Away from the ball, or even when he was in his sweet spot in the low or mid-post, West's struggles (10 points on 5-for-13 shooting, no trips to the free-throw line, being taken out of typical screens away from the ball) were directly tied to Battier's perfect defense.
Credit Miami, of course. They put you on your heels with their length and ability to beat you to spots, but the Pacers have to do better.
The Pacers have to show more patience in the halfcourt and somehow find a way to connect on any leak-outs they have off of Heat turnovers (13, in this game) and missed shots. It's probably hard to stomach us talking about Indiana's offense after a night where Miami played so well defensively and shot 61 percent from the floor, but Indy's offense seems like the only potential variable moving forward — because the Heat's D won't let up, and the Heat won't stop shooting 61 percent from the floor if they're continued to be allowed great looks in transition after busted Indiana plays.
The chippy play? The flagrant fouls? The potential suspensions? We'll get to that later on Wednesday. This thing has turned ugly. Too ugly.
And the Heat, when they can run? Too scary.