For three years, the Heat has tried to disprove the belief that it’s vulnerable against big, physical front lines with offensively skilled post players.
But Miami has done nothing to refute that perception in this series, and that — combined with unusual Heat offensive inefficiency late in the game and some splendid work from Paul George and George Hill — proved to be the Heat’s undoing in Game 2.
Roy Hibbert and David West combined for 42 points and 17 rebounds and spent as much time on the free-throw line as winter tourists spend on South Florida beaches.
Both made big plays in the fourth. Hibbert had two baskets, and West hit a turnaround in the paint to break a tie with 1:59 left and then grabbed a LeBron James turnover with 42 seconds remaining.
And the Pacers’ power players got considerable help from George (22 points) and Hill, whose 18 points included two free throws with 48 seconds left and two with eight seconds to go, accounting for the final four points of the game.
“This whole team is just showing great desire and heart and belief,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “They believe they can win this series, and they’re giving it all their might. They’re rising to the challenge. I’m very, very proud of them. We look like a true team.”
Hibbert shot only 13 for 34 against the Heat in three regular games, but he has been far more efficient in this series against several defenders — Chris Bosh, Udonis Haslem, Chris Andersen and, briefly, Joel Anthony.
After shooting 9 for 18 in Game 1, Hibbert shot 10 for 15, doing all of his damage in the paint, including hook shots, dunks and layups. And he shot 9 for 10 from the line. Unlike Game 1, Hibbert was in at the end.
“He’s giving great efforts on the offensive glass,” Vogel said. “Efficient scoring, great extra passing. Making winning plays.”
West struggled from the field (2 for 9) but hit a key basket late and made 9 of 10 free throws.
“David has incredible will to do whatever it takes to win a game,” Vogel said.
Hibbert had 10 rebounds, West seven.
“We learned from Game 1, tried to fix our mistakes,” Hibbert said. “We are happy to get a split.”
Bosh scored 17, but his rebounding remains disturbingly deficient. After hauling in just two boards in Game 1, Bosh closed with five, giving him 15 in five games against Indiana this season.
Haslem mustered just one point and three rebounds in 14 minutes.
Andersen again had an impact with seven points, three boards and a block, but played just 15 minutes. Because he expends so much energy, the Heat believes he would be less effective if he played more.
With Bosh and Andersen picking up three first-half fouls, Spoelstra used Anthony for a 1:43 stretch before halftime.
The Pacers sustained their edge on the boards — they outrebounded Miami by 45 in three regular-season meetings, by five in Game 1 and by seven (39-32) in Game 2.
Power rotation players Hibbert, West and Tyler Hansbrough (who had no points and two rebounds) combined for 42 points and 19 rebounds, compared with 25 and 14 combined for Bosh, Haslem, Andersen and Battier. Meanwhile, George scored 14 of his 22 in the second half.
“Paul is going against the best player in the world in LeBron and carrying the offensive scoring load,” Vogel said. “He gave us a huge, huge lift.”