Heat-Pacers packs punch as playoff preview, palate cleanser

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com


VIDEO: Pacers edge Heat in chippy East clash

INDIANAPOLIS – Surely, Washington and Detroit would understand. Same with Cleveland and Milwaukee and the other teams on the Indiana Pacers’ and Miami Heat’s schedules over the short term.

If the NHL could shut down for a few weeks to accommodate the Winter Olympics, the NBA and its member teams no doubt would oblige by staging the Eastern Conference finals now, wouldn’t they?

This one – Pacers 84, Heat 83 – was that special. And raggedy. And nasty. And hot.

There were grimaces and grumbles in the visitors’ dressing room afterward, smiles and a couple of exhales over on the home team’s side, and for a night – portending, soon enough, a fortnight – all was right with the NBA world.

Not all right in the sense that Miami lost and, with it, an opportunity to squeeze the Pacers a little harder in that chase for the East’s No. 1 seed. But all right in the way storm clouds over both teams got shoved aside by the sun burst of playoff-worthy basketball from all involved.

No one mentioned doldrums. Whatever the bad math lately – seven losses in 12 games, or was it eight in 13? – it was rendered irrelevant. Both teams clinched their divisions, one by winning, the other by losing (thanks, Washington), and naturally that meant nothing to them either.

Getting a game like the one at Bankers Life Fieldhouse Wednesday, one that lived up to the hype and then transcended it, has the effect of a palate cleanser at this point in the regular season. Of course, that’s way too genteel a metaphor for what went on – clotheslines and elbows and flagrants, oh my! – unless we sub out the sorbet for a squeegee, a bar rag and some styptic pencils.

The Pacers and the Heat hadn’t faced each other in anger (and that’s no mere cliché in this matchup) since Dec. 10 and Dec. 18, back before the season had gotten much traction. The battle everyone expected, and still expects, them to have as the East’s last two standing was, well, out there somewhere.

Now it’s right there, in relative terms. And the margin was as slim as Indiana strongman David West‘s shocking 3-pointer on an inbounds play with 50.2 seconds left that made it 84-80, followed by Miami forward Chris Bosh‘s hurried 22-footer to win just before the buzzer on what Heat coach Erik Spoelstra admitted was a “gunslinger” play. The ball had come in to LeBron James with just two seconds left and he followed orders by shoveling it to Bosh. Two passes in two seconds, yeah, a little gunslinger.

But it was that sort of night.

“It was definitely a playoff game,” Bosh said. “Close, going back and forth. Each possession was crucial. We just had [19] turnovers and didn’t do a very good job of taking care of the ball. Especially down the stretch [two in 21 seconds late in the fourth quarter]. Against a good team like that, you have to get good shots. You can’t come away with empty possessions, because that puts them in position to really strangle you.”


VIDEO: LeBron James talks about Miami’s loss in Indiana

Strangle? Nah, that was one of the few forms of mayhem not on display Wednesday.

Emotions ran hot, as evidenced by the dueling technical fouls on Lance Stephenson and Dwyane Wade for barking close in the third quarter. Later, both were gone, done in by their respective fatal flaws: Stephenson’s immaturity and Wade’s assorted ailments.

The Pacers’ mercurial guard taunted Wade after a basket with 5:01 left in the fourth and foolishly got his second T, earning an automatic suspension. Wade grabbed at his left hamstring three minutes later and had to exit.

Physically, this was May, not March. James, one of the league’s brawniest players, was in the thick of it. On one play, he got dragged down by Indiana big man Ian Mahinmi. It was reviewed as a flagrant foul but recast as a shooting foul. Next, he was whacked hard by Luis Scola, his recently broken nose taking impact. It too was reviewed as a flagrant but recast as a common foul.

“I see me and Blake Griffin take some hard hits,” James groused afterward. “They call it how they want to call it.”

So naturally, when James drove strong soon thereafter, his right elbow caught Pacers center Roy Hibbert smack on the jaw, sending the big man to the floor and briefly on rubber-leg street. And that was ruled a flagrant-1 foul.

James, unhappy most of all with the outcome, clipped his answers to postgame questions off at three or four words. But he went longer when someone wondered if the hit on Hibbert was retaliatory.

“If I could jump in the air, elbow somebody in the face in the air and still try to finish the play, I must be a kung-fu master or something,” James said. “I mean, his face happened to hit my elbow or my elbow happened to hit his face.”

Bosh stuck up for his friend.

“Our guys are getting punched in the face and clotheslined out there and we’re getting two shots,” Bosh said. “Then we get an offensive foul called – and it’s a flagrant. I guess we really need to decipher what ‘flagrant’ means. Because I don’t feel they were going for the ball. Especially in those two situations.

“If you can come down and clothesline somebody, I mean, it’s open season. People are going to get hurt. I don’t know, we’re going to have to revisit what ‘flagrant foul’ means to see if it’s even. But they had one and we had none, even though LeBron got punched in the face and clotheslined.”

West, when he heard about Bosh’s complaint, was incredulous: “He [James] shot 15 free throws!”

How perfect was this stuff? There had been no handshakes before the game, no chit-chat or fraternity hugs. There certainly won’t be any next time, not now, not after the bodies spent sprawling and the blood spilled Wednesday.

West had an air of satisfaction about him as the Pacers’ locker room cleared. He and some teammates had given Stephenson a talking-to after the final horn, reminding him to knock off the foolishness. Their team, for the most part, also had eased some of Paul George‘s burden by getting the ball out of his hands, sending him through and around the Miami defense as a cutter and generally keeping the Heat guessing.

But best of all, as West saw it, Indiana matched Miami in rugged play and giving as good as they got. With the game in their gym, they felt they had a solid chance to stay even on the whistles.

“They’re a tough team and psychologically, against most teams, they have the edge,” West said. “They have the best player in the game. Wade and Bosh are Hall of Fame guys. They’ve got that pedigree, their entire organization. You understand what you’re gonna get.”

Better than that, fans of both teams and the league in general understand what they’re gonna get when these two teams meet again. And, soon enough, again and again and again.


VIDEO: Paul George and the Pacers discuss their big win over the Heat

75 Comments

  1. Lebroncrybaby says:

    He wants to be consider the best player but doesnt want to take the punishment that comes with it. That why he took the easy road to win a championship!!! Ask MJ, Magic, Kobe etc!!!

  2. j.t. says:

    Wades 3 shouldve counted he didnt step on the line..i dont know why that wasnt reviewed

  3. TotoyBato says:

    I can’t wait to see lebron injured.

  4. A Salem says:

    C’mon guys, it’s only a league game, it does not mean anything
    There is no team in NBA that can beat Miami in a seven game series.
    Chill out, playoff is money time and that’s count the most… who cares about losing in Indiana by a point????
    Miami is focussing on Playoffs and they are capable of winning in anyone’s building.
    The last time I check is do not piss off LBJ cause he is going to come and hunt you back, beside the game was not officiated the right way and it wont happen to Pacers favour every night..
    Watch out for the champ!! Go Heat…

  5. allan madolora says:

    If the New York Knicks gets the 8th spot and faces Indiana; we might never see a Heat – Pacers rematch….

  6. Terence Ross says:

    where is the infamous lbj? im waiting for his amazing comments.

  7. gingee says:

    It’s funny how people are defending LeBron, you see his shoulder mind to hit Roy. What he said maybe be true but after you do the same layup the millionth time you can move your elbow two inches to the right I think. Also, anytime the refs call the game fair( both sides played dirty) heat fans get offended and blame everyone but their blessed team.

  8. okc2014 says:

    Great game. It could have gone either way. Refs called the game in favor of the Pacers. Just what my eyes saw. No biggie to me, I’m glad the Pacers won. Ha Ha!

    • gg says:

      if you look at the video replays, both pacer fouls were not flagrant. Mahinmi was basically trying to hug Lebron around the arms. He wasn’t aiming for the neck and he wasn’t aiming to hit. He was aiming to hug, if Lebron hadn’t tripped afterwards due to his momentum, it would’ve looked like a typical hack-a-shaq type foul. The Scola one was even less of a flagrant, Scola’s left hand was on Lebron’s chest, his other hand was aiming for Lebron’s shoulder and accidentally clipped his nose. It was obvious from the video that he didn’t put much force into it, he basically jumped forward slightly.

      Lebron’s foul on the other hand was definitely a flagrant. He knew Hibbert’s face was there, he moved his right elbow to strike, then he moved it back. It’s the moving it back that made it obvious that it was a flagrant. If he was simply trying to get the ball away from Hibbert’s hand, he wouldn’t have moved his hand back right afterwards.

      • #dwade#flash says:

        hey GG I understand what you are trying to say, but what if, what if, that unintentional wrap by Mahimi on james injured him. That is just what if?

        flagrant fouls should be called to protect the players for INJURIES not to happen. It should be give consistently. wrap your arms over my shoulders, no matter you got hurt or not! it should be called. Even no intentions to harm, sometimes accidents happen even it wasnt your intentions.

  9. Team3peat says:

    The officiating started well and ended terribly. now if the LEAGUE starts allowing one sided officiating to ruin more games,then something must done.. Granted that this is a player-driven league and Lebron is the face of this league, he shouldn’t be treated so unfairly knowing how much revenue the NBA is now generating bc of Lj and the Heat. And one more point..If the league cant control Stephenson then we must get ready for Detroit round II ,somehow he thinks is Ron ARTEST reloaded. Mark my words on DETROIT round2.

    • gg says:

      uhh, LBJ is just not used to being treated fairly by the refs. Case in point the series against Boston where he single handedly got almost the same number of free throws as the entire Boston team. The Heat beat OKC fair and square that year, but they didn’t beat Boston fair and square.

  10. Team3peat says:

    Tchuips if the LEAGUE start allowing one sided officiating to ruin more games something must done.. This is player league and Lebron shouldn’t be treated so unfairly knowing how revenue this is now generating bc of Lj and the Heat. If the league cant control Stephenson then we must get ready for Detroit round II , he thinks is Ron ARTEST reloaded.

  11. Rob says:

    After the events of that game April 11 could be interesting.

  12. - says:

    Question donte. Drive to the whole what?

  13. ricz says:

    Heats is/are hating lol
    They nvr realized that the official helps them to get closed in this game >.>

  14. unknown says:

    stupid referees & awful indiana pacers. pacers played dirty play last night.miami deserves that game.what happened to the wade’s 3 piont shot & why they did not count, referees gave flagrant foul on LBJ but not on stupid pacers.

  15. justine says:

    GO PACER……

  16. Robert says:

    Toughgame

  17. MiamiH says:

    its funny because the heat had no shane battier, no ray allen, no beasley, dougla only played 3 min…..oden only played 6 min…. the second offensive unit basically sat out…

  18. Roy Hibbert says:

    Thanks for the apology,Lebron.

  19. AC says:

    Lebron should learn to get smoother to the rim – and not complain WHY EVERYONE HITS HIM HARD? if he consider himself -THE BEST NBA PLAYER

    want a ex. ?? – KD – he don’t elbow opponents – still this doesn’t stop him to get a lot of points

  20. Zak says:

    The refs did a good job of letting the game play out without calling ridiculous fouls, except for a few mistakes but I must admit that 3 of the fouls suffered by Lebron were in my opinion flagrant ones, players not aiming for the ball and trying to prevent a score should be called for committing a flagrant or technical foul as it is unfair to the spirit of the game.

    What an impressive game that was though!

  21. mehg says:

    if stphenson would have played the would have won by so much

  22. LeflopWhines ;);););) says:

    “Dude, how long you been a Heat fan?”

    “Ever since we got LeDouche!”

    “Sounds about right.” ;)

  23. Reggie Miller says:

    I’ve been peaking at the last quarters of couple of latest Miami wins. THE JUDGES are their sixth player so often, they didn’t deserve to win some of those games, especially the one against Houston. And then tomorrow in the previews you see nothing of that judge theft stuff that actually won their game….oh come on!!! Tell the truth PREVIEW!

    If it weren’t for the judges they would never get so close to the Pacers who came right back in the best possible moment. This is the swagger momentum that’s gonna lead Indiana to the NBA finals.

    And don’t forget the injured CJ Watson is coming back, even if he doesn’t – still Sloan is doing a great job! And Bynum should just wait for the Eastern Finals to come in and give a few elbows back at drama queen James.

    Pacers are much stronger then last year, and last year Miami was stronger then this year.

    I just wish I joined back for the ring to play a key role like Ray Allen. :)

  24. theCHI2014 says:

    Sometimes you get the calls and other times you don’t. Both teams were given bad calls, it’s just how it is. I just wish the game was called more consistently.

  25. Amzo420 says:

    Though my team lost, it was a great game ruined by the referees. But when things start going crazy in the first quarter and Lance Stevenson acts like he is at Rucker Park, refs need to cool things down and especially open their eyes. Good game Indy.

    • JustTheStr8Facts says:

      Funny how noone is mentioning James with the And-1 taunt in Lance’s face that was noticed by everyone watching the game except the refs. James has been taunting all season and no calls. The irony of the whining about that call by Miamia fans is highly amusing, all things considered.

  26. james says:

    I am just waiting for lbj to make a comment about how wining a game against the Heat in the regular season won’t win a championship, they need to join the king “Lebron” to win a ring..lol

  27. Bil says:

    So happy to see miami lost!

  28. You guys should check my new highlight. I call it the 6 steps for King no walk.

  29. john says:

    Did anyone else fall out of your set laughing when Chambers flopped out of bounds late in the game?

  30. theholyspectator says:

    you indy fans needa relax..miami are still the two time defending champs…and pacers..arent..

  31. kobe says:

    where is all the Heat Fans…they lose cant b found they win all over blogs…Just like the King…crybabies

    • #dwade#flash says:

      “where is all”? toink!

      • kobe says:

        is that the best u can do..im out just like WADE AND HIS knees

      • #dwade#flash says:

        its like mamba and his knee too… the bext I can do, who’s the cry baby now? hahahahahah you are the oen crying on PACERS and HEAT’s blog… go on Steve Nash blog and comment all you want..

        by the way, why do you need to create some playoff shoes? last time i checked FAKERS are on the bottom of the west

  32. John says:

    For the guy who tried to compare the league now as it was back when jordan was playing stop living in the past, this is a new league now it has grown and expanded in ways that cant be imagined so please stop talking. The pacer are indeed a great team and i as a HEAT fan like the competiveness between both teams although i dont believe you should be trying to injure a player just because you cant contain him!!! The refs need to do a better job in calling those intentional none basketball fouls on lebron we do not want or need any more season ending injuries in the NBA this is not the NFL you shouldnt be allowed to tackle a player in mid flight to the basket. As far as the game goes it was a great game but there were a couple calls the Heat didnt get like the travel by West on the 3 the offensive foul on lebron come on now Hibbert ran up to Lebron to protect the rim it just so happened that he went into his elbow and got smacked!!! And to all you Lebron haters get a life seriously no celebrity looses sleep just because you call them names grow up cause last time i checked your at home reading headlines not making them stop hating so much and just admire the sport!!!!

  33. James "Your Walkness" LeBron says:

    Ok…I did mean to throw the elbow I’m Soory Roy. But what you don’t understand is this. When I put out my hands and give the ref a confused look, that’s his cue to call the foul…So I was being cheated.

  34. laughing with kiwi land says:

    ;haters gonna hate
    but if you cal a flagrant on lbj there, then scola or mahinmi should have one called to at least.
    they review every detail but dont review wade’s 3
    West his shot was traveling like you never have seen before (but traveling happens alot by al teams so that is not an excuse)

    and everybody sdaying lbj flops alot,wel if he dont thy breakhis nose (like with ibaka) and he dont even get a foul called.

    • LeBron James says:

      True that Finally someone smart on here. Hey did you like how wade tattled on stevenson. I though it was awesome I love how the ref’s side with us! Go Heat

  35. gerryd23 says:

    i know wades 3 that was ruled out of bounds……that was garbage the heat should of won that game

  36. Jack says:

    Great game!

    Stephenson’s ejection was a bit much imo, but Turner made up for it down the stretch.

    And seriously, pretty impressive for LeBron to get up, throw an elbow at a 7’2″ guy’s face and finish the play. Next time, he’d be better off finishing the game down the stretch instead of giving it to a team mate. The old LBJ was back for a night, I guess.

  37. marty says:

    What about Wades 3 that was ruled no good..Refs were terrible!! Pacers did what was allowed for them to do.

  38. sami says:

    crazy world, how can you heat bandwaggonfans ignore the truth? first look at lebrick right shoulder there is only one reason why it moves in hibberts face it was intentional.and he is really surprised omg and respect to the refs on that play.!!!! why didnt lebrick for his taunting no T?influenced by wade who complains about that and then the ref is calling, maybe paul or so have to do the same? next time!!!
    there is no way to complain about the refs the advance heat enough in that game haapy for pacers they won
    look how dirty birdman tried to foul paul on the next dunk attempt unbelieveable and i saw before in the the eyes from the birdman after the dunk from paul on lebrick look at the replay there was the decision next time it would be ugly for you like dion waiters last time
    unbelievable how the league ignore that
    nba is WWF i hope not this year

  39. Sleepless Bull says:

    Miami Cry Babies… one time the refs dont play in their favor they start crying… lol…

    what to say more: if these two make it to the Conf. Finals – which I honestly doubt – it will be like: “Let the best Flopper win”!!
    no respect for floppers.. no respect for Miami and Pacers!!!

    • Steven says:

      It will be Indiana and Miami in the conference finals, because there’s no other team in the east that will beat them in a seven game series.

      • Game Time says:

        Only teams with a minimal chance of upsetting those two are Bulls and BK, and I mean MINIMAL!

  40. Faba says:

    did anyone see the replay ?? whoever thinks that this was not intended throwing an elbow at hibbert, has to be an lebron fan boy and i know there are a lot out there…

  41. spursfan says:

    have you guys watched the 70’s – 90’s basketball?
    i mean what the heck are you guys talking about dirty plays?
    the bad boys from detroit made cheap tricks than what was done with this game.

    hey fellas we have WNBA in case you want to watch a softie basketball game.

    • Understand says:

      Exactly…the way I see it you get paid stupid amount of money so I don’t care about no crying..they should all just shut up and man up…can’t believe all the boohooing from people who never have to worry about another bill in there life…

  42. Someone says:

    did Lebron just complain about officiating? what has this world come to…

  43. timpson says:

    That’s what they needed stop crying lebron everybody was getting foul u bosh r big cry babies.

  44. JM says:

    First, LeBron complained about the sleeves when they lost to the Spurs. Now, he complains about Hibbert’s dirty play – HIBBERT THREW HIS JAW INTO JAMES’ ELBOW. WOW! My goodness. Get out of the league Hibbert, you play dirty. LMAO.

  45. Number 13 says:

    This match lived up to the hype. Ugly on the offense end, but thoroughly entertaining. The Heat let the Pacers shoot 20 more shots then them. That is going to cost you the game most of the time, even against a struggling Pacers offense.

  46. Noit says:

    Ok this is weird. I don’t say this ever but yeah LBJ got extremely targeted up. Pacers play a dirty brand of basketball, that’s not defense or physicality that was targeted attacks.

    The Bulls played defense against the Heat, recalling that last game. They did not target people trying to hurt them.

    • Noit says:

      More than any other team, the Bulls understand that a hurt to a team member is not a winning move as it hurts the person as a person. IE: Seeing what Rose went through, Noah, Deng, Taj, so many injuries that the Bulls. Bulls would never go out to hurt anyone else but they play true defense. That’s why you saw refs not blowing whistles against Bulls in their last Heat game. Bulls played defense. Pacers played dirty and refs caught it, LBJ went to the line a lot BUT in all honesty the Pacers style of attacking and hurting people needs to be brought into check by the refs. This doesn’t feel like a win for the Pacers, it was too dirty.

  47. sam says:

    i hope next time, miami will play the same as the pacers did! no easy dunk from paul george! grab him and hack him also! let him feel the same way!

    • donte says:

      Everybody crying about LeBron how about you pick up a ball and drive to the whole and let someone grab u by the neck. LeBron takes hard fouls all through the game and when he cries 2 the refs people get mad

    • Damian Lillard says:

      Poor Roy!