May 18, 2014, 6:20 PM EDT
From the moment the season began in late October, or perhaps even as far back as their Conference Finals loss in seven games to the Heat last May, the goal for the Pacers was simple: Finish this year with the best record in the league, so that homecourt advantage could be on Indiana’s side this time.
Despite the struggles that plagued the Pacers the last two months of the season and into the first two rounds of the playoffs, now that they’re here in the Eastern Conference Finals, they seem to have remembered what it was all for, and at least for one game, regained their swagger.
Indiana controlled Game 1 from the opening tip, and looked like the East’s best team in cruising to a 107-96 victory that felt like anything but the titanic battle many were expecting.
The Pacers were several steps ahead of the Heat in this one, and whether it was due to Indiana finally reaching the moment the team has waited for all season long, or because Miami has yet to truly be tested in these playoffs, the result was lopsided just the same. The Pacers aren’t a great team offensively, but they used an aggressive George Hill to initiate things, and moved the ball with precision to create a balanced attack that saw six players finish in double figures scoring.
Miami’s rotations were slow from the jump, and the Pacers took advantage by shooting better than 60 percent for most of the first half, while knocking down six of their nine attempts from three-point distance through the first two periods.
There isn’t any one player responsible for the loss on the Heat side, as the team defense that has historically played on a string looked more like it was being attempted by a group of players who were on the court together for the very first time. But with that being said, Miami can’t afford many more games like this out of Chris Bosh, who normally provides a backbone for the Heat, but who was exceptionally dismal in this one.
Bosh missed his first two attempts from three-point distance, then was hesitant to pull the trigger on some open looks early — a level of tentativeness that extended to the defensive end of the floor, and one that is extremely uncharacteristic. Bosh finished 4-of-12 from the field, in a game where the Heat were collectively able to shoot better than 51 percent.
Meanwhile, for the Pacers, Lance Stephenson was focused and under control, David West and Paul George were efficient in combining for a 15-of-24 shooting effort, and Roy Hibbert was active as he had been for much of the series against the Wizards, finishing with 19 points and nine rebounds in almost 39 minutes of action.
It’s only one game, of course, but the Pacers accomplished everything they set out to against the defending champs when their season ended in Miami last year. The biggest problem facing Indiana has been a lack of consistency, and that’s sure to be tested against a motivated Heat team in Game 2 that will look to come out with much more intensity to try to gain a split of the first two games in the series.
Jul 22, 2014, 1:24 AM EDT
Ray McCallum dropped 29 and even threw in a Jordan shrug.
Jul 22, 2014, 12:01 AM EDT
Would you rather have Harrison Barnes or Draymond Green?
Jul 21, 2014, 11:00 PM EDT
Hummel gets second NBA deal after spending season in Spain
Jul 21, 2014, 10:00 PM EDT
Former Colorado point guard out with ACL tear
Jul 21, 2014, 9:00 PM EDT
Jazz point guard will help national team prepare for World Cup this summer
Donald Sterling reportedly meets with Steve Ballmer, which might accelerate Clippers sale (or do the complete opposite)
Jul 21, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT
Donald Sterling also reportedly met with Shelly Sterling for three hours
Jul 21, 2014, 6:54 PM EDT
The Suns are going to be a League Pass favorite next season.
Jul 21, 2014, 6:22 PM EDT
Cooper, who coaches WNBA’s Atlanta Dream, expected to make full recovery
Jul 21, 2014, 5:29 PM EDT
Celtics fans are asking “why?” Good question.
Jul 21, 2014, 4:58 PM EDT
You doubted Kobe?
Jul 21, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT
Former No. 6 pick by the Wizards signs in Turkey
Jul 21, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT
Of course, George thinks the Pacers can regain their form and be a threat next season in the East.
Report: Stan Van Gundy tells Josh Smith, barring unexpected trade, forward will start season with Pistons
Jul 21, 2014, 2:44 PM EDT
Pistons reportedly never seriously interested in trading Smith to Kings
Jul 21, 2014, 2:41 PM EDT
Andre Drummond can be a funny man.
Jul 21, 2014, 2:11 PM EDT
I love the Rip City jerseys.
Jul 21, 2014, 1:33 PM EDT
Young signs with Pelicans, Bairstow with Bulls
Jul 21, 2014, 1:02 PM EDT
Put Coach K in the “we already know Love is elite” camp.
Jul 21, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT
It sounds as if former Stanford forward might give up hundreds of thousands of dollars (nearly his entire salary)
Jul 21, 2014, 11:44 AM EDT
I think his sentiments spoke to a lot of fans in Miami.
Jul 21, 2014, 11:05 AM EDT
Stephenson took less money overall, more money per year to leave Pacers for Hornets
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- Lakers great Michael Cooper diagnosed with cancer 13
- Report: Stan Van Gundy tells Josh Smith, barring unexpected trade, forward will start season with Pistons 7
- Mike Krzyzewski would trade Andrew Wiggins for Kevin Love with “not one second of hesitancy” 68
- Mario Chalmers: “I never thought anybody would want to leave Miami for Cleveland” 65
- Las Vegas Summer League review: How did Andrew Wiggins, other lottery picks fare? 14
- Report: Knicks open to trading Iman Shumpert or J.R. Smith 29
- Top seven free agents still on the market 49