In the Miami Heat 114-106 win over the Indiana Pacers, Erik Spoelstra made the right decision again. This time not by calling the last play of the game, but letting Hassan Whiteside become the crunch time hero with a crucial block, rebounds and free-throw shooting.
The Heat lead the Pacers by as much as 16 points in third quarter, when the Pacers turned on the defensive pressure on the Miami ball-handers, who committed one mental mistake after another to fritter away their advantage.
Leading 84-78 going into the 4th quarter, the Pacers tied the game at 97 all with a Lance Stephenson jumper and 5:09 left in the game which brought the crowd into a frenzy. Tyler Johnson made a 3-point basket to give the Heat lead for good at 100-97, but the Pacers kept the score close, with another Stephenson basket to cut the Pacers deficit to 106-103 with only 1:24 left on the clock.
The game seemed destined for another 1-point finish, when Wayne Ellington made a clutch 3-pointer to give Miami a six-point, 109-103, lead with 25 seconds left.
An absolute 4th quarter dagger off the Golden Arm
From then all Indiana could do was intentionally foul as Miami got one defensive stop after another.
The game was a tale of two halves as the Heat got off to an explosive 38-point first quarter, featuring an airplane dunk by two-way contract player Derrick Jones Jr.
In the first half Josh Richardson, Whiteside, Dragic, and Bam Adebayo had 10 points each with ball movement, high energy, and the game seemingly under control.
In the second half fatigue set in as Kelly Olynyk seemed especially sluggish mentally and physically. He scored a respectable 11 points, but had only 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 turnovers, and 4 fouls. The combination of Adebayo and Whiteside clicked better on an energy and production level, as they hit on a combined 11 of 19 baskets, 17 rebounds (15 by Hassan), 5 assists (4 by Bam), 4 blocks by Hassan, and only 3 combined turnovers.
Seven of the eight Heat players scored in double digits, Jones Jr. missed by one basket to join the club. The key to Heat’s win was their 13 3-point shots they made, compared to the Pacers one. Those conversions were worth an extra 12 points for the win.
The Pacers scored an astonishing 72 points in the paint, but each paint basket counts for only two points. The Heat getting the more efficient 39 points from downtown trumped the Pacers points at the rim when all is said and done.
Indiana was lead by 26 points by Victor Oladipo and 18 by Domantas Sabonis, but they got only 13 points from bench players not named Stephenson. In the end, the never-say-die Heat made 17-9 run to finish the game off with their defensive stops and come out with a gritty win against a worthy opponent.