Coming into Game 3 of the Miami Heat's second-round series against the Indiana Pacers, some spoke of the Heat's lack of help from the supporting cast. Others dissected the missed LeBron James free throws or the missed Dwyane Wade layup at the close of Game 2. Perhaps the supporting cast would start knocking down some open looks. Maybe James and Wade could carry Miami as they did in Game 1.
But for the Heat, another disastrous third quarter ensued. Wade had undoubtedly the worst game of his playoff career, shooting just 2-for-13 from the field. But it wasn't just the atrocious shooting for Wade. He was lazy on close-outs to open shooters and allowed easy run-outs. As a passionate Heat fan, a bad shooting night doesn't bother me. A lack of effort infuriates me, and that's what made the night so disheartening. He and Erik Spoelstra argued during one third-quarter timeout, and Udonis Haslem, Juwan Howard and James tried to calm him down to no avail. Many Heat fans have seen Wade bring his team back from the brink to win a championship in 2006 and leave everything on the court during his peak year, the 2008-09 campaign. Wade deserves a lot of scrutiny for his performance Thursday night.
The Heat lost 94-75, now needing a win in Game 4 Sunday afternoon to avoid going back to Miami in a 3-1 hole. The Heat struggled mightily again from 3-point range, going just 4-for-20 from downtown. Shane Battier went a putrid 0-for-6 from downtown. Even James Jones shot just 1-for-6 from the field. Although Mike Miller made two 3s, he limped the entire night.
It's hard to believe Miami finished the first quarter up 26-17. James had a spectacular first half, scoring 16 points on 7-of-13 shooting from the field. But he was quiet after halftime and finished with just 22 points. The Heat actually wasted a great game from Mario Chalmers. The 2008 second-round pick scored 25 points on 10-of-15 shooting from the field, making several floaters in the lane. Chalmers also had six rebounds, five assists and zero turnovers. But Miami will need another big performance from him in Game 4 to even up the series.
Spoelstra made a lineup change just prior to the start of the game, inserting Dexter Pittman and Battier for Ronny Turiaf and Haslem, respectively. Pittman was significantly overmatched against Roy Hibbert, and the experiment lasted just three-and-a-half minutes. Hibbert finished with 19 points and 18 rebounds, dominating against Joel Anthony and Turiaf. Turiaf had five points and eight rebounds in just 17 minutes, and it was puzzling that Spoelstra started Pittman over Turiaf in the first place.
The Heat now find themselves on the ropes, and James and Wade will have to shoulder plenty of the burden. Both of those players need to have monster games to win. Chris Bosh is injured. Mike Miller was the Sixth Man of the Year six years ago, but he won't turn into that player anytime soon. Haslem's rapid regression as a player has him conjuring up memories to Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who couldn't make a jumper or even jump in the playoffs last year. Battier can barely graze the rim on his wide-open 3-point attempts now.
The pressure will be on James and Wade. If they don't pull the Heat back from the ropes, Pat Riley could break up this team and scrap this experiment.