The Indiana Pacers lost a disappointing game two to the Miami Heat on their home court by only four points, evening the Eastern Conference Finals at a game apiece. After controlling much of the game, the top-seeded pacers floundered in the final few minutes and allowed the Heat to jump back into the series. The Pacers are continuing to look ahead though, and focusing on Saturday night’s game three to take back the series lead.
The number one seed has not erased the game from their memory, however, and are honing in on where they need to improve their game—particularly in finishing, according to star forward Paul George. Speaking about the Pacer’s loss, George admitted that they had failed to execute down the stretch, adding that it was a big mistake against a team like the Heat. George, who suffered a concussion in game two, has been cleared to play in the pivotal game.
George collided with Dwayne Wade in the fourth quarter of game two, taking a knee to the back of his head, and remained face-down on the court for several minutes. After the game, he said he had blacked out from the hit and complained of blurred vision, prompting the team doctors to run tests to ensure George could handle physical exertion. George later said he regretted mentioning the issues, as he felt fine after the game and he felt he just “made a mess” of things.
Given that the Heat managed to split the first two games in Indiana, the Pacers need to look at how they can return the favor in Miami and take the lead with a game three win. If the Heat take game three, it could give them further motivation, as well as a distinct home court advantage for the rest of the series.
If the Pacers are lucky, LeBron James will continue his lackluster performance into Saturday night. He ended game two with 22 points, seven rebounds, and six assists. James had similar numbers in game one: 25 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, and he went one-of-five on three-point shots that night. As much as (some) fans tire of hearing it, James is one of the keys to the Heat’s success, and if he has another mediocre night, or if the Pacers’ defense can hold him down, they stand a good chance of winning Saturday’s game and possibly the series.
The Pacers are at a slight advantage if they can keep the Heat on their heels. After three consecutive seasons of appearing in the NBA Finals, the Heat players are tired. They have not had the same amount of rest as other teams with such a shorter offseason. All three of the final series they have played in went at least six games long. Though they swept the Charlotte Bobcats in four quick games in the first round of this year’s playoffs, they took a little longer to defeat the Brooklyn Nets in round two, and did not get the lengthy break they were hoping for prior to the start of the conference final.
With George remaining in the lineup for Saturday night and the knowledge that their opponents are exhausted, the Pacers could look to capitalize in game three and take a 2-1 lead in the series. They will need to focus on execution, as Paul George said, and on keeping the Heat with their backs against the wall. If they can manage that, they might find themselves in the NBA Finals come June.
Commentary by Christina Jones