Miami Heat News: Keys to Game 2

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When the NBA’s final four was set, count me among those who thought the Indiana Pacers were the weakest link left. I went on record doubting the Pacers’ chances, saying they wouldn’t be the last team standing.

Shows what I know. If Game 1 was any indication, the Pacers are rolling at the right time. They routed the Miami Heat on Sunday, putting up their highest point total of the playoffs (107). They got off to a hot start and didn’t look back, getting balanced scoring and capitalizing on dreadful defense by the Heat to take the opener.

Still, all is far from lost for Miami. Heat fans believe the Pacers simply did what they’re expected to do: hold serve on home court. But it’s the way the Pacers drubbed the two-time defending champs that should have Heat Nation concerned.

It’s become a tired sports cliché to say a game is a “must win,” but Game 2 looms large for Miami. It needs to win Tuesday night, and here’s why/how:


  • A split is still salvageable. Momentum is everything in the playoffs, and there’s no question the Pacers currently have it. Against the Heat, where home-court advantage is key, it was critical for the Pacers to prevail. Doesn’t it seem like forever ago that Indiana experienced its early-round struggles? You could argue the Heat need this game more than the Pacers do.
  • The biggest eye-opener in Game 1 was the Heat’s mistake-filled defense. “That’s probably at our worst defensively,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said postgame. LeBron James had 25 points and 10 rebounds, but he lacked aggression as evidenced by just four fourth-quarter points. James was routinely beaten by Paul George on the other end, and Chris Bosh couldn’t stop Roy Hibbert or David West on Sunday. Hibbert and West both went for 19 points, while Bosh’s stat line read: 0-for-5 from 3-point land, nine points on 4-for-12 shooting, two rebounds, zero blocks, four fouls and a team-worst -16 in 32 minutes. He must have amnesia and forget about what happened in Game 1 if the Heat are to have a chance to win this series. Spoelstra should get Bosh involved early and often, to build his confidence and show the Indiana big men that he can be a threat.
  • The Pacers are clicking, and Hibbert has come to life. His team is 6-0 in the postseason when he finishes with double-digit point totals. Bosh can neutralize him, though, and it wouldn’t be a shock to see Hibbert post another clunker as he’s done a handful of times in these playoffs.
  • Dwyane Wade is playing like his old self. He’s posted two consecutive games of at least 27 points, and he was terrific offensively in Game 1. But the Heat basically wasted a great game from Wade, and given his injury history, it’s not unreasonable to expect him to take a step back Tuesday night. If you’re a member of Heat Nation, you’re hoping more than two starters score in double figures as was the case Sunday. “They drew the first blood, and we got to come and figure it out,” Wade said. “We are a confident team. We feel that we can win here.”
  • The Miami Heat are still the Miami Heat. The team hasn’t lost its swagger, but now it knows the Pacers present a legitimate and worthy opponent. Wade said, “We feel we have to play a lot better on the defensive end of the floor to be able to (win).” Spoelstra will make the necessary adjustments, and his team must respond to avoid falling into an 0-2 hole.
  • Stats tell part of the story. When the Pacers and Heat meet, the home team has won 13 of the last 15 matchups, including nine straight. Indiana has to like that anecdote, but Miami knows it can end the streak if it bounces back to form. Expect James to be his attacking self, and an offshoot should be better numbers at the free-throw line. In Game 1, the Pacers made 14 more free throws than the Heat attempted.

Heat Nation can take solace in the fact that the Heat are 16-2 after losing playoff Game 1s in the James-Wade-Bosh era. Historically, they know how to recover and they can draw on their playoff experiences to do so. The dynamic of this series will look plenty different if Miami heads home all square at one game apiece.

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Khalil Garriott is an award-winning professional sports journalist. A Virginia native now living in Southern California, Khalil has been a sports reporter, editor, producer, and columnist. He has played, coached, officiated, and covered basketball at multiple levels. Khalil appreciates the sport's fundamentals and missed free throws keep him up at night.
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