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NBA Playoff Schedule 2012: What Game 3 Losers Must Do to Rebound

Patrick Clarke@@_Pat_ClarkeCorrespondent IMay 19, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 17:  Mario Chalmers #15 and LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat watch the final minute from the bench area against the Indiana Pacers in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Semifinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on May 17, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Pacers defeated the Heat 94-75. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Despite the overwhelming media and fan reaction to the Miami Heat's Game 3 loss to the Indiana Pacers, LeBron James and company are just one win away from reclaiming home court advantage in their Eastern Conference semifinal series, and placing all of the pressure to win Game 5 on Indiana.

At the same time, it won't be a walk in the park for the East juggernaut, as Miami must improve in several key areas in order to overcome a confident and clicking Pacers squad. The same goes for the Western Conference's No. 2-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder, though, as they find themselves in a battle with a Hollywood dynasty, led by Kobe Bryant who refuses to fade.

Here we take a closer look at what each Game 3 loser must do to get back into their conference semifinal series this weekend. 

Oklahoma City Thunder ( Oklahoma City leads  Los Angeles Lakers 2-1)

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 18: Derek Fisher #37 of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers jump for a loose ball in Game Three of the Western Conference Semifinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs on May at Staples Center on May 18, 2012
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

There is no need for the Oklahoma City Thunder to panic after suffering just their first loss of this postseason. After all, they fought off a poor first quarter and led by one point heading into the final period of Game 3 in LA.

Arguably the biggest reason the Thunder fell to the Lakers in Game 3 was their inability to defend LA without fouling. The Lakers certainly benefited from some home cooking, getting to the line 42 times and hitting 41, but needless to say OKC must play more efficient defense.

In addition to playing cleaner on the defensive end, Oklahoma City must improve from beyond the arc in Game 4. The Thunder shot just 23.5 percent from downtown in Game 3, after hitting 38 percent of their three-pointers in the series' first two games. 

Finally, the Thunder must hold their own on the defensive glass. No one expects OKC to out-rebound LA and its two seven-footers in Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, but the Thunder were out-boarded by seven in Game 3 at the Staples Center—and they were out-rebounded by seven combined through the series' first two games. 

Series Schedule (Courtesy of NBA.com):

Game 4 - Saturday, May 19, 10:30 PM ET, TNT

Game 5 - Monday, May 21, 9:30 PM ET, TNT

Game 6* - Wednesday, May 23, TBD

Game 7* - Sunday, May 27, TBD

*if necessary

Miami Heat (Indiana leads Miami 2-1)

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 17: (L-R) Mike Miller #13, Dwyane Wade #3 and Undonis Haslem #40 of the Miami Heat sit on the bench near the end of the game against the Indiana Pacers in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Semifinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs at B
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

For the Miami Heat, the biggest key to winning Game 4 at Indiana and evening the series with the Pacers is getting the bench going offensively. In addition to some poor bench play in Game 3, Miami got zero points combined from starters Shane Battier and Dexter Pittman (0-of-9 shooting combined).

Statistically, however, superstar guard Dwyane Wade was the worst player on the floor for the Heat in Game 3, as Miami was minus-25 when Wade was on the floor. He scored five points on 2-of-13 shooting in 37 minutes of action.

The Heat's bench has been outscored by the Pacers' bench 62-49 thus far through the series' first three games, and is clearly Miami's weakest link this postseason. Heat center Joel Anthony scored 10 points off the bench in Game 3 and could be a potential replacement for Pittman inside to start Game 4.

The biggest turnarounds will have to come from Battier and Udonis Haslem however, as both veterans are more than capable of providing double-digit scoring off the bench or in a starting role. 

Forget about LeBron James' struggles at the free throw line and Wade's blowup with head coach Erik Spoelstra. In order to win, Miami must jump-start its bench in Game 4, and that starts with getting more out of Battier and Haslem. 

Series Schedule (Courtesy of NBA.com):

Game 4 - Sunday, May 20, 3:30 PM ET, ABC

Game 5 - Tuesday, May 22, TBD

Game 6* - Thursday, May 24, TBD

Game 7* - Saturday, May 26, TBD

*if necessary

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