Lance Stephenson
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Lance Stephenson
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

In the end, the Miami Heat may not even need to show up for Game 5 of their Eastern Conference Finals series against Indiana to close things out. The Pacers have clearly reverted back to the days of being their own worst enemy.

From Lance Stephenson first inciting Dwyane Wade, and then LeBron James to Paul George openly ripping him for his trash talking antics to Roy Hibbert blasting the entire organization for the overall way they do business, the Pacers seem to be coming apart at the seams. Again.

“The game plan really wasn’t to utilize me as much,” said Hibbert, justifying, as if that’s even humanly possible, how a 7-foot-plus, near 300-pound All-Star center can play roughly half the most important game of his season without scoring a single point, recording just one block, and having only five rebounds fall to him. “Would I like a little bit more touches early on? Yeah. But that’s how the cookie crumbles sometimes.”

And for sure the Pacers are falling apart. Again. But then, that shouldn’t be as huge of a surprise when you remind yourself this is the same team that bragged and boasted about how earning the top seed in the Eastern Conference was the end-all-be-all their season in terms of achieving their goal of dethroning the two-time defending champion Heat, only to blow a double-digit second half lead in the standings and arguably only reached that goal because the Heat called off the dogs by resting Dwyane Wade prior to the playoffs.

The Heat now lead the series 3-1 and so discombobulated have the Pacers become they are even complaining about the few battles they’re still actually winning.

“Home-cooking,” George said of the Heat’s 34-17 free throw shooting advantage, his incessant whining ultimately netting him a $25,000 fine. More to the point, George conveniently forgot about an even wider disparity the Pacers gleefully took full advantage of in Game 1 (37-15), as well as the fact Indiana has now shot seven more freebies overall throughout the entire series and the champs have been charged with four more fouls.

And let’s face it, you’re not going to beat the champs without knocking them out, and in the end, all Stephenson’s bad boy posturing and comments about how he’s “in James’ head” figure to work as well as his defense has on the four-time league MVP over the last three games the Heat have won by a nearly double-digit average.

And now the champs have grown tired of all the games, all the yapping, and all the posturing.

“We don’t want to come back for Game 6,” said James. “We love our fans, obviously. We love being in Miami, but we want to try to close it out.”

Close it out and close it out now. Because they may love their fans but hate the Pacers even more.