Miami 105, at Indiana 93 (Miami wins, 4-2)
Dwyane Wade took incredibly tough shots and made most of them. And he made incredible plays to get easy shots and converted those too.
Offensive Ratings: Miami 121.8, Indiana 104.7
Wade (41 points on 17-of-25 shooting), as has been the story for the last three games, was simply awesome in Miami's closeout victory. He really got going in the second quarter, which he began by making shots over Leandro Barbosa on the Heat's first two possessions.
The Pacers clearly wanted to avoid a Barbosa-Wade matchup, bringing in Barbosa once Wade left the game in the first quarter. And they removed Barbosa for Paul George after those two possessions. By then, it was too late. Wade was rolling.
Though he took a backseat to Wade, LeBron James (28 points, seven assists, six rebounds and three steals) played his usual excellent game on both ends of the court. But--and I might be a bit biased here for a Michigan Man--Juwan Howard was the real key.
Howard had a 4 billion, but he was also +9. On Miami's first second-quarter possession, Howard set a quality screen on Barbosa to free Wade. On Miami's second second-quarter possession, Howard cut strongly through the paint to prevent Louis Amundson from doubling Wade, who was posting up Barbosa. Between those plays, Howard took a charge.
That was the start of Wade's 20-point quarter, which the Heat won by five.
Miami's second-quarter advantage was so slim because, despite Wade's outburst, the Pacers' starting lineup played the final 7:48 of the period and outscored the Heat by five. As has been the story for the playoffs, Indiana's starters played excellently together. They're so balanced and work so well as a unit.
George Hill, Paul George, Danny Granger, David West and Roy Hibbert shared the court for 31 minutes and outscored Miami by 11 in that span. The group saw at least 6:59 together in each quarter and outscored the Heat in all but one of those stretches.
Thanks to Mario Chalmers, who took advantage of George Hill not picking him up a few times by making two jumpers and getting to the free-throw line once more, Miami outscored the Pacers' starters by three in the first 6:59 of the third quarter. If there was a weakness to that Indiana lineup, this was it. Or it might have been an aberration. Hill is a solid defender, and Indiana's starting lineup is stellar.
Chalmers (15 points and 3-of-4 on three-pointers) and Mike Miller (12 points and 4-of-7 on three-pointers) gave the Heat strong third and fourth options. But really, it was the Wade show.
For the Pacers, it's the outcome everyone expected, but they played Miami much tougher than expected. Indiana has a strong team, and if it uses its cap space well, could be even better next year.
The Pacers, through their strong play, brought out the best LeBron and Wade. If LeBron and Wade didn't play so well in the series' final three games, the Heat would've lost. Although I had no dog in the fight, as a basketball fan, I at least appreciate that the Pacers were good enough to allow me to see two of the greatest players of all time at their best.
Dan Feldman is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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