Now THAT was Miami Heat basketball.
A few days after supposedly hitting rock bottom in a Game 2 that featured poor late-game execution by Dwyane Wade and LeBron James and an overall inability to put the ball in the basket from everyone outside of James, Game 3 was a return to the team basketball that enabled Miami to become the reigning NBA champions.
As expected, it was terrifying if you were the opponent. Miami’s 114-96 victory featured a number of statistical oddities and anomalies, courtesy of every last member of the Heat, as they made arguably the league’s top defense as vulnerable as they had appeared this season.
Before scoring an absurd 70 first half points on 64 percent shooting, the Heat employed new methods in finding out how to decipher this aggressive and rangy Pacers’ defense that can seemingly guard three-point shooters and pack the paint at the same time.
Miami coughed up the ball on only five occasions, including only one time in their nearly immaculate first half, and set a postseason franchise-record for least amount of turnovers in a half.
The Heat went to Chris Bosh early for a few jumpers, scoring eight of Miami’s first 16 points, including his two three-pointers on the night. But he wasn’t alone in the early charge, which resulted in 34 first quarter points for Miami, as Udonis Haslem also finally began to make his presence felt.
After going 1-of-7 for 3 points in the first two games and being at the source of heavy questioning as to why exactly he was still a starter, Haslem converted his first six shots and finished with 17 points on 8-of-9 shooting. The 17 points is the most Haslem has scored since breaking his foot in November 2010.
Haslem and Bosh played huge roles in opening up the paint for James and Wade. They combined to shoot 14-of-19 from the field and performed an excellent service in dragging Roy Hibbert and David West to the perimeter.
Bosh finished with 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting in only 24 minutes. The lack of minutes came as a result of foul trouble and Miami’s controlling lead in a fourth quarter stretch where he would usually return.
It was the Heat establishing those two early as jump shooters that would lead the way for the revival of LeBron’s post-game.
The Heat coaching staff must have forgotten that one of the main reasons why they are the NBA champions happens to be because they established LeBron in the post against the likes of Thabo Sefolosha and James Harden in last year’s NBA Finals.
After straying away from it for most of the regular and postseason, he posted up 12 percent of the time according to Synergy, James revived his back-to-the-basket game and put on full display why he, and not the new phenomenon in Paul George, is the MVP on both sides of the court.
A weekend after being lauded over with praise for his work against LeBron, you couldn’t help but feel sorry for Paul George at some points. LeBron made it look too easy as he backed down the lighter George and scored over him on a number of possessions.
James finished the night with 22 points on 8-of-17 shooting, four rebounds, three assists and zero turnovers in over 41 minutes worth of game-time. LeBron only had one three-point attempt a game after attempting seven in Game 2 and two games after attempting six in Game 1. It was clear that James needed a return to normalcy, starting off by exhibiting his size and strength against a weaker defender.
They’re not the robust numbers he had in the previous two games, but that’s a great thing as it means his teammates were finally getting involved.
And did they ever. All Heat starters scored in double-digits, including 18 points and eight assists from Dwyane Wade, and the bench, outside of Chris Andersen, finally began to contribute some positive results to the cause.
Birdman, once again, was a machine in scoring nine points on a perfect 4-of-4 from the field, which keeps his shooting percentage for the series at a pristine 100 percent on 13-of-13 shooting. He also led the Heat with nine rebounds in only 22 minutes.
Ray Allen broke out of his shooting slump and scored for the first time this season against the Pacers, scoring seven points and finally converting a perimeter shot as he finished 2-of-4 from beyond the arc. Shane Battier, however, could not follow the trend as he converted only 1-of-4.
Battier did annoy many Pacers, though, including a stretch where he drew fouls on three consecutive possessions. He was one of the few Heat players who were capable of drawing fouls on a Pacers team that took 16 more free throws than their opponent.
But, hey, that’s one more shot than what he, Allen and Mario Chalmers (14 points on 4-of-6 shooting) combined to make in the disaster that was Game 2. Miami shot 43 percent on 14 three-point attempts, while also improving their free throw shooting tenfold with a conversion rate of 86 percent on 28 attempts.
The Heat had shot less than 70 percent from the line in Games 1 and 2.
Despite the Pacers shooting a godly 57 percent on three-pointers, getting to the line for 44 free throw attempts and winning the offensive rebounding battle 18-6, they failed to make this any sort of competition in the second half as the Heat continued to run the game at their pace.
Indiana’s style of grind-out, physical basketball did not control the game as it did in the previous two. Even with those gaudy numbers, Indiana shot less than 40 percent from the field overall and could never get the deficit within seven in the second half after Miami took a 14-point halftime lead.
After a Hibbert putback and-one that cut Miami’s lead to seven with 5:45 remaining in the third, the Heat would run off a 9-1 run that pushed their lead to 15 with 2:46 left. Meanwhile, the Pacers converted only one field-goal in the final 5:45 of the third.
Miami didn’t give Indiana any hope on making a comeback. They came out in the fourth guns a-blazing and pushed the lead to 21 following an Allen three-pointer that surprised just about everyone.
Indiana would never get the deficit closer than 14 and Frank Vogel would take out his starters with 3:19 left in the fourth and the Heat holding a 17-point lead.