The Miami Heat provided the two things that have sold sports tickets for more than a century in America – villains to beat and a lot of scoring. The villains were obvious to most of the 18,345 who attended the game with Sarah Palin in Conesco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana – the state that went from Obama to Romney in November. Earlier in the day, Palin won over fans at the Indy 500.
Dwyane Wade had taken down Lance Stephenson with an elbow to the head a year after his Heat teammate Dexter Pittman had broken Stephenson’s collarbone with a vicious elbow.
Two challenges facing the Heat were embodied in the broadcasters’ booth with Reggie Miller, the former star for Sunday’s opponent the Pacers, and Steve Kerr, who was the second best three-point shooter in the NBA when he played for the 1996 Michael Jordan team that the Heat is chasing in history.
Coming into the game some were questioning if the Heat could beat the bigger Pacers after barely winning Game 1 and then losing Game 2 at home in Miami. The Heat was so dominant in scoring at will en route to a 70-56 halftime lead that by the end of the game the question was again if they could possibly match Kerr’s Bulls’ team that lost only three games in the entire playoffs (the Heat would top the 1996 Bulls if they win their next six).
The Heat rebounded from a Game 2 loss by abandoning the three-point jumper and taking the ball at the bigger Pacers – including 7-foot-2 Roy Hibbert and martial arts expert David West – only taking four three-pointers in the first half and eventually clearing the bench with a few minutes left en route to a 114-96 win that puts them back up two games to one.
LeBron James played like a center, scoring almost all of his 22 points inside or getting fouled going there, and Dwyane Wade was able to have the highlight of the night when he went around a Shane Battier pick and then beat Hibbert to the hoop for a thundering dunk. However it was the other player going for his third Heat title, Udonis Haslem, and the tattooed Chris Andersen who combined to hit 12 of 13 shots to make this one a mismatch.
It was just one game, but the villains won this one.
In last year’s playoff, Udonis Haslem had taken down Tyler Hansbrough with a flagrant, and the crowd booed every time Shane Battier drew and charge – and then, of course, there was LeBron James. Even the TNT personalities were taking sides.
Charles Barkley, who participates in T-Mobile commercials with Wade, initially defended Wade’s elbow to Stephenson – but admitted he was wrong after reviewing slow motion that showed it was intentional. The TV team that included Miller and Kerr were particularly critical of charges Battier was drawing. However, they did admit they were wrong after claiming Battier had flopped on one play until a replay showed David West had pulled Battier down by his neck.
The winner of the series is almost sure to face the San Antonio Spurs, who lead the Memphis Grizzlies three games to none in the West.