When Chris Bosh went down in Game 1 of Miami's series with Indiana, things looked bleak for the Heat. Now, with the series tied 2-2 heading into tonight's Game 5, both teams have a lot to prove in this critical matchup.
The Pacers blew a golden opportunity to take a commanding 3-1 advantage at home on Sunday. Inconsistent performance on offense, foul problems for Roy Hibbert and poor defense down the stretch cost them the game and the momentum.
In advance of tonight's Game 5, here are the keys to victory for both teams in a matchup that will shift the balance of power one way or the other.
Establish Secondary Players Early
As great as LeBron James was in Game 4, the key to that victory was the performance of Udonis Haslem. The much-maligned power forward was able to drop 14 points, including eight in the last six minutes.
Haslem doesn't necessarily have to be the secondary player to step up, but as long as the Heat can establish someone other than James and Dwyane Wade, they will be able to snatch another victory from the Pacers.
Turn LeBron James Loose
Fans and analysts love to beat down James because of his "failures" in the fourth quarter of games, yet they fail to realize all the ways in which he impacts the game. Just because he isn't shooting the ball doesn't mean he isn't impacting the game.
James tends to get caught in spots where he wants to be the perfect team player instead of doing what is in the best interest of the team. He is the best player on the planet and needs to use his skills as a shooter, passer and defender to command the game like no one else can.
Keep Roy Hibbert Out of Foul Trouble
When Hibbert went out of Game 4 due to foul problems, you could see the difference in body language for both the Heat and Pacers. He isn't a good scorer, but he doesn't have to be for the Pacers to win this game and series.
Having that 7'2" frame in the paint to contest shots and make life difficult for James and Wade when they drive into the lane gives the Pacers the stalwart in the middle they desperately need. His presence alone is paramount to this team stealing a victory in Miami.
Don't Try To Run With The Heat
In the two games the Pacers have won, they have dictated the pace for 48 minutes. They don't have the athletes to keep up with Miami for an entire game, so there is no reason to try and outscore them.
The Pacers have established themselves as a strong defensive team that is capable of shooting the ball from the outside. They need to slow the game down and let the action come to them instead of trying to keep up with the Heat when they run up and down the court.