The Indiana Pacers lost their second game in a row to the Miami Heat, dropping game three and giving the Heat a 2-1 lead in the series. Game four is scheduled to tip off Monday night in Miami at 7:30 p.m. Eastern Time.
The Pacers jumped out to an early lead in Saturday’s game and maintained it until halfway through the third quarter, when the Heat pulled ahead for the first time. The lead changed hands eight times in the remaining minutes of that quarter, which ended with a 71-64 Miami lead. The Heat held the lead throughout the fourth quarter, outscoring the Pacers 28-23 in the final 15 minutes of the game.
Neither team controlled the ball well in the first half, combining for 24 turnovers. Miami committed 11 of those first-half turnovers, but finished the game with only 15, showing much better ball protection and control in the second half. The Pacers had 19 total giveaways, to which Paul George attributed much of the game three loss and the Heat’s overall series lead. George said the team made the same mistakes as in game two’s loss, allowing too many turnovers and giving the Heat too much possession.
The Pacers had an opportunity in the second and third quarters when Chris Bosh ran into foul trouble and was benched in favor of Rashard Lewis, who had not played since game five of the conference semi-finals. Indiana, however, did not capitalize and, in fact, lost their large early lead. They had another chance at the end of the third quarter when LeBron James limped to the locker room with leg cramps and did not return until halfway through the fourth. The Pacers managed to cut the Heat’s lead to two points just after James came back into the game, but the Heat followed with a 9-5 run, ending the rally before it really began.
The Pacers scored 22 points in the third quarter as a team and 23 in the fourth. Paul George, who played only 32 minutes, finished with 17 points, two rebounds, and four assists. Roy Hibbert had 16 points, and David West was held to 13, mostly due to Lewis, who had an impressive night on defense. The team shot 47.7 percent for the game and went six for 21 on three point shots. A 76 percent free throw percentage was not enough to overcome the Pacers’ issues with execution and possession. Indiana particularly struggled with its starters on the court, banking net points of negative 21 with West and Hibbert on the floor and negative 10 with George off the bench. Starting point guard George Hill and bench players Luis Scola and Ian Mahinmi were the only players whose presence in the game netted positive points for the Pacers.
James continued to post his usual numbers this series with 26 points, five rebounds, and seven assists. This was largely due to the Heat’s poor performance in the first half and to his temporary exit from the game in the fourth quarter. James, however, was an integral part of several runs the Heat made to overcome the fifteen-point deficit and eventually take the lead in the game. Dwayne Wade finished the game with 23 points, and Ray Allen had 16. Bosh, who has been struggling with fouls this series, did not make it out of the single digits. Miami was 10 of 18 from the three-point line, but shot 54.4 percent for the game. They have shot over 50 percent in every game so far in the series.
As with game two, poor ball possession and shot execution contributed to the Indiana Pacers losing game three, allowing the Heat to take a lead in the series. Game four will be played in Miami on Monday, with the series headed back to Indiana for game five on Wednesday.
Commentary by Christina Jones