INDIANAPOLIS (AP)—The Miami Heat let Indiana control the pace of Game 1 and they paid for it.
The Heat outscored Indiana 14-0 on fast-break points, but the Pacers forced Miami to play in the halfcourt for most of their 94-81 victory on Thursday night.
If the Heat have any chance of evening the best-of-seven series on Saturday, they know they have to up the tempo in Game 2.
“If we’re going to be a halfcourt team, we’re playing right into Indiana’s hands,” Heat guard Eddie Jones said. “They’re a great, great halfcourt defensive team.”
Dictating the flow of the game helped the Pacers overcome being outrebounded 47-39 and outscored 34-30 in the paint by a much smaller Miami front.
Indiana was able to keep the young, athletic Heat from getting into the open court where they thrive.
“If you compared the two teams performances from Game 1, the difference was they were able to execute their offense against us,” Heat coach Stan Van Gundy said.
Indiana point guard Jamaal Tinsley was a big reason for that. Like the rest of his teammates, Tinsley struggled to get into the flow of the game after an 11-day layoff between playoff series.
The third-year veteran also made things difficult for Miami rookie Dwyane Wade in the early going, limiting his chances in the open court.
“I wanted to make sure we got a good shot every time down the court and make sure they didn’t get any easy buckets in transition,” Tinsley said.
Tinsley pestered Wade on the defensive end and was a big spark in the deciding 26-5 run spanning the second and third quarters.
“He’s had a great, great year,” Van Gundy said of Tinsley. “He’s been one of the biggest improvements with their team.”
The Pacers hit nine 3-pointers in the game, including two from Reggie Miller that helped stave off Miami rallies and made up for O’Neal’s 5-for-17 shooting night.
“That’s what we’ve been doing all year,” O’Neal said. “When one guy is struggling, another one steps up. It’s not like we have a 1-2 punch. We have 12 to 15 guys that can contribute for us. If they double down in the lane, we have guys out there that can make shots.”
That leaves Miami with two options heading into Saturday’s Game 2, neither of which seemed very appealing to Van Gundy.
“For us to try to control the paint, you’re going to give up some outside shots,” he said. “If we decide to get out on the perimeter, you have two All Stars going one-on-one in the paint.”
Miami is running into similar problems on the other end. Van Gundy said the Heat missed 10 layups and 20 shots inside of 12 feet and shot 38 percent in Game 1.
“We were not good enough offensively,” Van Gundy said. “Their defense was good and we took a lot of bad shots.”
The bulk of the Heat’s success came with Wade, Rafer Alston and Jones on the floor in a three-guard lineup. The small lineup helped them whittle a 23-point deficit down to eight in the final quarter.
But going small had consequences. Wade and Jones were forced to guard Artest on the other end, which didn’t go well. Artest scored 25 points and used his 250-pound frame to bull his way inside and get to the free throw line.
“They got to the free throw line 32 times and hit nine 3s, that was the difference,” Van Gundy said. “We played hard, we just didn’t execute well offensively.”
The Pacers said they expect to see Miami make adjustments for Game 2, but with the rust of the long break shaken off, the Heat’s best chance to win on the road may be behind them.
“It’s a positive for us that we controlled the game without playing our best basketball,” O’Neal said. “If we get this Game 2, it puts them in a tough, tough position.”