Heat Beats Pacers To Go Up 3-2
THE NBA EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS REPORT: HEAT SHOOTS DOWN PACERS WITH MONSTER THIRD QUARTER AND GO UP 3-2 IN TRUE "BAD BLOOD" SERIES
By Jim Hurley:
No wonder folks were calling Thursday night's Game 5 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals a "swing game"!
Okay, we know the "true meaning" of the phrase but in a series that's been highlighted -- or not highlighted, depending on how you view things -- than the term push-comes-to-shove is quite appropriate here but the biggest push in this 90-79 Heat win was done verbally by LeBron James who played the role of the preacher man just before the teams took the floor in the third quarter and then promptly showed one-and-all why he is considered -- and by far -- the greatest basketball player on this man's planet.
Okay, so by now you know that James accounted for 25 of the Heat's 30 third-quarter points as Miami outscored a direction-less Indiana team 30-13 in that ultra-critical frame but James displayed that talent that not many of theNBA's best players display and that's he truly made everyone better -- and we mean one, Udonis Haslem!
After this twin-digit win, Haslem was all smiles in the interview room: No, he didn't quite contribute the King Jsmes stats that included 30 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists but Haslem did finish with 16 points on 8-of-9 field-goal shooting with most of them coming from the exact same corner spot about 15 feet or so from the hoop. James pounded the lane against an Indiana team that only ocassionally played with its usual passion and continulally found Haslem in a spot-up, shooting position and than the guy that James himself earlier this series called the "heartbeat" of the Miami Heat delivered big shot after big shot.
Speaking about big shots, Indiana didn't get many from its starting backcourt tandem of George Hill and the wild-and-wacky Lance Stephenson. In fact, this not-do-dynamic duo registered just 2-of-11 made field goals for a combined five points in 55 total minutes and so no wonder after this blowout loss there was Pacers head coach Frank Vogel scratching his scalp and claiming that he didn't quite know what had happened to his starting guards.
One thing that happened is both Hill and Stpehenson lost focuse: More than once we noticed Indiana front court players David West (17 points) and 7-foor-t2 center Roy Hibbert (22 points) counseling Hill on where exactly to throw them the ball -- note that Hill officialy finished with only three turnovers on the stat sheet (in all the Pacers committed an ungodly 17 miscues) but there were times he simply didn't hit the open man or the guy with the matchup/size advantage and all those instances added up in the end.
One thing that TNT analyst Charles Barkley has been saying all along -- and he's been right -- is that West and Hibbert will be "constants" for the Pacers because of the size problems they pose the smaller Heat team. Barkley's been saying all throughout this bump-and-grind series that West/Hibbert will get their points but whether or not the Pacers can pull this series shocker (yes, we reiterate that Miami was listed as a 7-to-1 betting favorite at the start of this best-of-seven set) will depend on what Hill and Stephenson do and both were bummers in Game 5.
On the flip side, the Heat's happy that it more than held its own on the backboards where Indiana sported a mere 33-to-32 rebs advantage and save for Indiana's do-it-all star Paul George (27 points, 11 rebounds and 5 assists in Game 5) nobody really killed Erik Spoelstra's club on the glass here with West's eight boards pretty much a par-for-the-course game stat against this weak rebounding Heat team.
If you choose to wave off that silly pushing incident between Miami's Chris "The Bridman" Andersen and Indy's Tyler Hansbrough -- all "The Birdman's" fault as you all saw on the TV replays -- that you can step back and realize that Miami played physical ball in the post and clearly distracted Stephenson with all the bang-and-bump stuff. True, Stephenson did get a "chicken wing" shot into the jaw of Miami G Dwyane Wade (was that a taking his own medicine bit there?) but otherwise it didn't appear Indiana's size advantages or strength advantages really deterred the Heat who listened to James' post-halftime speech and rallied to the hilt with one of the best single quarters we've seen in recent NBA Playoff history.
In fact, in a quarter in which the Heat canned just 3-of-14 field-goal tries overall (and just one made FG after the three-minute mark of the third quarter) the dominance displayed there was amazing 'cause Wade (10 points on 3-of-8 FG shooting) and forward Chris Bosh (7 points on 3-of-7 FG shooting) were not highly significant players during the 30-13 run. James resembled the dude who starred all those years in Cleveland as a one-man wrecking crew of sorts with a favorite passing target in Haslem who now must get his game to translate to the road come Saturday night's Game 6 at "The Fieldhouse" -- and we'll preview that monstrous affair in the very next edition of Jim Sez.
Now, a couple of more important post-Game 5 News & Notes ...Indiana was not crying out loud following this tilt just because the Pacers only attempted a grand total of 15 free throws -- they canned 12 of 'em -- one game after Indy shot a grand sum of 33 free throws in that 99-92 win in Game 4 back in Indianapolis. Maybe the Pacers' horrifici third quarter in Game 5 told the tale -- we simply can't remember the Pacers' guards getting it to the hoop in the last seven or eight minutes of that quarter -- but as is the case in so many NBA playoff games the road team's bench didn't do much. How about just three made field goals from Mr. Vogel's reserves on nine field-goal attempts and PG D.J. Augustin once again was quite unsure of what to do. The single turnover marked down against Augustin could fool you because he didn't have much of a clue in his 18 scoreless minutes ...
Okay, back to that Andersen incident and whether or not he should have been tossed from Game 5:
We say "no" even though all the evidence was against 'em as "The Birdman" took off after Hansbrough even though it was George who shoved Andersen from behind. A personal foul and a technical foul should have been rung up on Andersen at that point -- no more and no less. At the time of this writiing, Andersen has not been suspended for Game 6 nor should he be. If the league slaps him with a one-game suspension, it'll simply be to quiet a "squeaky wheel" Indiana team that was quite perturbed with the whole incident ...
Finally, maybe the aforementioned Spoelstra gets too much grief for being a proverbial "push-button" head coach but give the man props for this:
He let James take over the pre-third quarter huddle and allowed a Miami team that had played extremely wobbly ball in the first half -- hey, we thought the Heat played a bit scared in the game's first 24 minutes and nonbody save for James really wanted to make things happen -- to show his demonstrative self and it paid off. No doubt the sermon from The King jazzed up a Heat team that played semi-lifeless ball in the opening half and so have to hand it to a coach who isn't afraid to push his own ego aside and let the players police themselves after a spotty half of play.
Finally, now hear this ...Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers get you all the NBA Eastern Conference and -- beginning June 6 -- NBA Finals Side & Totals Plays when you check in each and every day at the toll-free # of 1-800-323-4453 or right here online plus get all our winning Major-League Baseball too. Stay as hot as the weather with America's #1 Handicapper ... that's Jim Hurley!
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