The Heat didn’t only reclaim home court advantage in the Eastern Conference Finals with a lopsided 114-96 victory in Indiana on Sunday — they sent a message. Miami rolled from the very start, and in doing so reminded us of just how dominant this team was all season long.
In the first two games of the series in Miami, the Pacers seemed to be an excellent matchup for the Heat, and were able to use their size and team defense to keep each of those contests within reach until the final few possessions.
It’s clear the Heat didn’t take too kindly to facing the prospect of falling behind in the series, and Miami flipped a switch that few teams are capable of in lighting up the Pacers for a Game 3 destruction.
Miami put a ridiculous 70 points on the scoreboard by halftime, and shot almost 63 percent from the field in the process. LeBron James took to the low post to score seemingly at will over Paul George, and even did so with the left hand on more than one possession. The Pacers as a team did fine offensively, but were missing in action on the defensive end all night long. They allowed Udonis Haslem to have the breakout game of the night for the Heat, and the veteran big man finished with 17 points and seven rebounds in 23 minutes of action.
Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade were solid as usual for the Heat, and Mario Chalmers was big in the third quarter when Indiana made a brief surge in an attempt to close the halftime deficit.
Miami shot 54.5 percent from the field for the game, and turned the ball over just five times. Most teams will end up winning by putting up those kinds of numbers, but if the Heat are allowed to roam that freely offensively, the result will be disastrous.
The Heat would like to remind you that that they haven’t lost consecutive games since early January, and haven’t lost on the road since March 27. To think they’d drop their second straight in the playoffs to this Pacers team was apparently laughable, given the way Miami imposed its will from the very start.
After the Pacers established a mountain of momentum in the first two games of the series, Miami erased it all with 48 minutes of unstoppable and brilliant basketball. The Heat’s performance was so dominant that it’s worth wondering whether the Pacers will win another game to slow Miami’s inevitable march to the Finals.
Indiana will do its best, of course, to throw this one out as being just another game. But the doubt that Miami planted firmly in the heads of the Pacers players with its crushing Game 3 performance should be substantial enough that if the Heat play anywhere close to the level they proved capable of on Sunday, this series will be over in five.