The Battle In South Beach didn’t prove to be much of a battle. The Miami Heat used a 33-16 run through the second quarter to blitz the Indiana Pacers in anticlimactic 99-76 win to win what was otherwise an excellent series to settle the championship of the Eastern Conference.
Miami’s win proved every adage that the NBA lives by. It’s better to have championship-tested veterans, even hurt and maybe a little past prime, rather than rising young talent that hasn’t been there before. You have to wait your turn and get your heart broken before you can win. Those are clichés, but they are the truest explanation for what happened last night.
Dwayne Wade has been a shell of himself for this series, obviously slowed by the knee injury that’s bothered him all year. Last night he looked like something resembling the D-Wade of old. It’s not just the 21 points, though that was impressive enough. It’s the nine rebounds, and the constant sight of him in the mix for loose balls.
Then there was Chris Bosh, perhaps still unable to get untracked scoring, but going for eight boards. These were the biggest factors in why Miami outrebounded Indiana 43-36, a stat that by itself would tell you the end result.
On the flip side, there was Indiana looking to young for the moment. I had a bad feeling about what would happen with Paul George. He’s a genuine rising star in this league and will likely get future chances at this level of the playoffs, but last night he looked like what he was—someone at his first rodeo. George shot 2-of-9 from the floor and was a non-factor.
As a team, Indiana reverted to its bad habits from last year and much of this season, and it’s settling on the perimeter rather than pounding down low. They attempted 20 three-point attempts, four more than Miami, in spite of the Heat being the team ostensibly built around the trey. Lest you think Indiana was hot, they only made six. I’m sorry, you aren’t going to beat anyone, much less the champions on their home floor, when Gerald Green is shooting threes at the expense of Roy Hibbert or David West seeing the ball down low.
I don’t buy the excuse that Indiana settled for threes because they were behind. If that’s the case—and it probably is—it’s yet another sign of a team that’s too young and panicked too early. Comebacks don’t happen when you get out of your game and start wildly jacking up shots. Comebacks happen when you lock down on defense, stabilize the game and then gradually get back into the flow. Indiana never gave themselves that chance, and Hibbert & West’s combined 32 points/12 rebounds were too pedestrian.
Finally, the turnovers. Indiana committed 15 in the first half when the game was decided, and ended up with 21 on the game. This wasn’t a byproduct of Game 7 nerves, though it could be reasonably taken as such. Indiana had this problem all series long, indeed all season long. A good ball-handler at the point will surely be a top off-season priority.
Let’s bring it all together and look at all of these factors, any one of which would be a clear indicator of a Miami win, and collectively add up to a blowout…
*Wade gets on an offensive roll and again looks like a legit #2 scorer to LeBron James
*The combo of Wade & Bosh lead Miami to a rebounding advantage
*Indiana settles for three-point shots at the expense of the post game
*The Pacers turn the ball over left and right
*Paul George implodes
Oh, and LeBron? He had 32 points/8 rebounds/4 assists. Just another day at the office. Bring on San Antonio.
Speaking of Miami-San Antonio, the NBA Finals will start on Thursday night. TheSportsNotebook’s NBA commentary will be back tomorrow to preview the series.