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NBA Eastern Conference Finals: Heat Crush Pacers, 114-96

2013 NBA Playoffs
2013 NBA Playoffs

May 26, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6) drives to the basket past Indiana Pacers small forward Paul George (24) during the second quarter in game three of the Eastern Conference finals of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA’s Eastern Conference Finals featured a pivotal Game 3 on Sunday night. Unlike the first two games, though, this one wasn’t all that close as the Miami Heat led most of the way in a win over the Indiana Pacers.

Miami regains home court advantage with 114-96 Game 3 victory
After the first quarter, it again appeared as if the Eastern Conference Finals were destined for another game going down to the wire. But things didn’t stay close all that long as the Miami Heat came out and played one of their best games this postseason in a convincing 114-96 win over the Indiana Pacers in Game 3.

Things were virtually even after a back and forth first quarter, but Miami opened the game up a bit in the second and led by 14 at the half. They outscored the Pacers in both the third and fourth quarters on their way to the 18-point win over Indiana.

The Heat got big contributions from all of their starters. LeBron James scored ‘only’ 22 points, but all of the other starters also finished in double figures. Unlike Game 2, Udonis Haslem and Mario Chalmers stepped up with big games. In the previous contest, the two had only seven combined points. But on Sunday, Haslem was second on the team in scoring with 17 and added seven rebounds. Chalmers had 14 points and the duo took much of the strain off of Miami’s Big Three.

Leading the way for the Pacers in defeat was center Roy Hibbert with 20 points and 17 rebounds. David West added 21 points and ten boards.

One problem for Indiana this series has been the poor play of Lance Stephenson. The starting guard has rebounded well and scored some points, but has shot horribly. In the three games, Stephenson has averaged eight points a game, but shot an abysmal 25% from the field (8-32). He’s playing a lot of minutes, but Indiana really has few other options. D.J. Augustin is the only backup guard playing significant minutes behind Stephenson and starting point guard George Hill. With Orlando Johnson and Ben Hansbrough being used sparingly, the Pacers have had to rely on Stephenson to play quite a bit. They can live with him doing so, but the team would be better served if he didn’t shoot as much.

The Heat haven’t always been on their game this postseason, but they were on Sunday. In addition to putting up a ton of points in the blowout win, Miami took care of the ball. They had only a single turnover in the first half (a franchise low in the playoffs) and five in the entire game.

For Miami, the win was a rare one. Indiana was unbeaten in the playoffs this year at home and the Heat also hadn’t defeated the Pacers in Indianapolis all year as they dropped both regular season games there.

The Pacers will have to find a way to slow down the Heat offense and now find themselves in a virtual must win since falling behind 3-1 in the series could be an insurmountable deficit.

Game 4 will be on Tuesday in Indianapolis as the Pacers look to again even the series.

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