The Miami Heat took control of their hotly contested Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the Indiana Pacers in blowout fashion with a 115-83 victory for the 3-2 series lead. LeBron James once again led the way with a second consecutive "almost-triple-double" consisting of 30 points on 12-19 shooting to go along with 10 rebounds and 8 assists alongside an efficient game by Dwyane Wade with 28 points on 10-17 shooting.
But this wasn't just a two-man show this time around with just about every Heat player who played substantial minutes having solid games, nullifying the Pacers' depth that was one of the few strengths they had over the Heat. Shane Battier's 4-5 shooting from beyond the arc was crucial to get his shooting touch back and helped set the tone for a hot start in the first quarter, but it was his lockdown defense on the bigger David West that was an even bigger factor for the Heat. Udonis Haslem's own shooting touch thankfully didn't leave him after Game 4 with a 5-6 shooting performance tonight for another double-digit scoring total to go along with 6 rebounds. Mario Chalmers somehow led the team in 11 rebounds (his career high) and Ronny Turiaf continued to lead the team in over the top celebrations. In summary, a good time was had by all. The Heat set a postseason franchise record for field goal percentage and finished a single point short of tying the team record for total points.
The Indiana Pacers meanwhile were a mess on offense and trailed the entire game after a quick Battier three-pointer to start the game, failing to string together any sort of scoring run to put a dent on a Heat lead that kept growing and growing throughout the game. They allowed a 9-point halftime deficit balloon to a 19-point deficit after the all-important third quarter. To make matters worse, they lost Danny Granger (who had first rolled his ankle in the second quarter) and West to injuries in that quarter as well.
When you're top performer is Paul George with 11 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists then you're in big trouble. Roy Hibbert had been dominant in stretches of this series but only made 3 field goals tonight, one of them courtesy of a lucky three-point heave at the end of the shot clock during one of the many Pacers possessions that went nowhere. He only had one block and did little to protect the paint. His lack of aggression couldn't even be chalked up to foul trouble as he only had two of them.
The rebounding battle was won again by the Heat 49-35, continuing the trend where the team that has won the rebounding edge has also gone on to the win the game. The Heat also scored 22 fast break points compared to just 2 from the Pacers.
"Defense is always on top of my list," answered LeBron when Jason Jackson from Sun Sports asked him what his keys to the victory were. "The fact that we were able to get stops and turn those stops into transition points and then share the ball offensively are great ingredients for us. Also the rebounding. When we rebound like this, we have a high percentage in wins this year so that's a big part of our game."
The game was very physical tonight with Wade receiving a cut to his face from Tyler Hansbrough at almost the same place that Haslem received his cut in the prior game. Udonis returned the favor to Hansbrough moments later with a blow to the face as the Pacers forward attempted a jump shot, earning a flagrant foul in the process. Dexter Pittman chipped in during garbage time with a strategically-placed forearm to Lance Stephenson, who had made a choking gesture to mock LeBron James earlier in the series.
The Heat will look to finish the series Thursday in Indiana with the tipoff scheduled at 8:00 PM.