After a gritty 78-75 Game 2 victory, the Pacers were pleased and the Heat were left looking for answers. Losing Chris Bosh to an abdominal strain early in Game 1, the Heat were able to take care of business, but things were different Tuesday night.
They missed him.
It’s rare that both LeBron James and Dwyane Wade struggle offensively, but when they do, they’re used to having Bosh to go to. Without him on the floor, James and Wade have no choice but to dominate if the Heat want to take control of this series.
Bosh’s backups simply are not good enough to fill the void created by his absence. With Ronny Turiaf or Joel Anthony on the floor, the Pacers basically get to play five-on-four. With the way the Heat role players were playing, it was more like five-on-two, really.
Despite their struggles, the Heat still made a game of it in the fourth quarter and had an opportunity to tie the game, trailing by three on their final possession. With the Pacers keying in on both LeBron and Wade, they elected to go to Mario Chalmers, their best three-point shooter. Of course, Chalmers missed and the Pacers took the game, but there are important takeaways for the Heat in this one.
If the Heat want to advance to the Eastern Conference finals without Bosh, James and Wade need to lead them there. Beyond James and Wade, the rest of the Heat were non-existent. Chalmers was 2-of-10 from the floor, Anthony 0-of-5, Mike Miller 0-of-3. The James-Wade combo combined for 52 of the Heat’s 75 points.
They need to find a way to score. Sure, they’re able to cause the Pacers to take bad shots on the defensive end as well, but if you can’t put points on the board, you’re going to be in trouble.
The Pacers are not going to be able to stop James the whole game. When he decides he’s getting to the basket, he gets there. Unfortunately, he doesn’t always decide to try to get to the hoop. This leaves us with the same question we’ve wondered for years: Why doesn’t he decide that he wants to get there every trip down the floor?
James played nearly 43 minutes in Game 2. He’s going to have to continue to log heavy minutes as things move forward, making it crucial that the Heat don’t fall behind by double digits expecting James to be able to dig them out in the fourth.
The Pacers frustrated the Heat. Wade showed his frustrations when he gave Darren Collison a forearm to the back in the open court, sending Collison flying and picking up a deserved flagrant foul.
The Heat haven’t had to face a lot of tests so far this season. Indiana is scrappy and gritty in a way that the Knicks were not. They don’t have superstar players or marquee names, but they do have plenty of guys who are willing to come in and do whatever it takes to get their team the victory.
Facing this test of wills without Bosh is interesting, and the Heat need James and D-Wade to be superstars. That is their advantage against the Pacers. They have the best player in the league and one of the best shooting guards in the league. The Pacers do not.
After the game, reports showed that James was in good spirits despite the loss. While it’s good to keep perspective and remember that this is only one game, the Heat need to take Indiana seriously. The Pacers are not going to back down. Miami needs to prepare for a battle the rest of the series, and they need to make James realize how much they need him to attack Indiana in the games ahead.