With the threat of facing a 2-0 series deficit in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Miami Heat were a desperate team. The defending NBA champions got just enough from LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to win Monday’s Game 2, 87-83. The duo combined for 45 points and the series now shifts back to Miami tied at one game apiece.
In particular, those two absolutely stole the show in the fourth quarter. Outside of a Norris Cole bucket, James and Wade scored all of the Heat’s points in the final period, tallying 22 on their own. In case it wasn’t abundantly clear that those are the go to guys on this team, Tuesday’s performance reinforced that.
As things so often do in a seven-game series, the outlook for both teams has shifted considerably. The Heat went from being in a pressure-filled situation to now taking control of home court advantage.
The game was a defensive struggle as offenses on both sides, for the most part, stalled.
Each team was held significantly below its per game offensive average in a stark contrast from Game 1 when both combined for more than 200 points. The 87 points were the fewest for the Heat in this year’s playoffs and while the Pacers’ defense can often lead to similarly played games, even the 83 they scored was the second-fewest they’ve recorded in this postseason.
Indiana is often regarded as the superior defensive squad, but while they statistically rank ahead of Miami, it’s not by much. The Pacers have allowed only 90.1 points per game this postseason, but the Heat aren’t far behind at 92.7. The Pacers may be the better of the two, but both are defensive-minded teams that proved that Game 1 was an anomaly of sorts.
The Heat got strong games from James and Wade – and it’s a good thing that they did since other production was difficult to find. The duo combined for 45 points, but the 22 tallied by James was well below his season average of 27.1. Starters Chris Bosh, Mario Chalmers, and Udonis Haslem shot 50 percent from the floor but combined for only 22 on the night. Save for 11 points by Norris Cole, the bench was off, too. Ray Allen, Chris Andersen, and Shane Battier came up with only nine points, despite 61 minutes of playing time.
Prior to that fourth quarter run, even James and Wade were both struggling. After the third quarter, James had only ten points while Wade had 13.
Indy’s offensive problems were just as obvious.
It all started with the forwards for the Pacers. Star Paul George scored 14 points but played a disappointing game overall, shooting only 4-16 from the field. David West added ten points, but also wasn’t efficient, needing 16 shots to get there. Together, the pair made just over 28 percent of their shots and when you consider that they took 40 percent of the entire team’s shots, that didn’t bode well. Lance Stephenson scored a game-high 25 points, but it just wasn’t enough to offset what George and West had done in eating up so many shots.
Both teams know that defense is needed to win in the postseason. Going forward, expect more games that resembled Tuesday’s Game 2 than ones that look like the series opener.