INDIANAPOLIS -- For more than a month, the Heat pieced together impressive victories in the postseason but never really played to its full potential.
On Sunday night in Indianapolis, that all changed.
Faced with its first true test of the postseason, the Heat blasted the Pacers 114-96 in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Miami now leads the best-of-7 series 2-1 and has now won three consecutive postseason games at Bankers Life Fieldhouse dating back to the 2012 playoffs.
“It was a better team effort,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who added that his team was “more focused to getting to our identity … and not letting [Indiana] off the hook.”
The Heat dominated Indiana so thoroughly that it was almost like the Heat decided Sunday to finally start taking the playoffs seriously. Proof of extreme focus and determination was everywhere:
• Miami’s 70 points in the first half set a franchise playoff record for points in a half. So much for Indiana’s overwhelming home-court advantage.
• Udonis Haslem set a personal high for field goals made in postseason game (eight). His baseline jumper was on the mark from the beginning of the game. He finished with 17 points and seven rebounds. It was Haslem’s most points in a game since injuring his foot in 2011.
“He was locked in from the beginning,” Dwyane Wade said of his co-captain.
Haslem delivered a passionate speech to the Heat before the game, which Wade said helped prepare the team for the hostile road atmosphere.
“He can’t be defined by numbers,” Spoelstra said. “He is defined by winning plays and toughness that most players do not have.”
Said James: “He’s the heartbeat of this team.”
• The Heat’s five starters each scored in double figures for the first time this postseason (and just the second time dating to the beginning of the season).
• After struggling with turnovers in the first two games of this series, the Heat committed just five in Game 3, which set a franchise record for fewest turnovers in a playoff game. Wade had two turnovers and Haslem, Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis each had one. And that was it.
“That’s big time, especially on the road,” James said.
• Indiana began the game shooting 55.6 percent in the first quarter but finished the game with an overall shooting percentage of 39.7. The Heat’s defense tightened the vice in the quarter and never released the pressure.
• The Heat’s effort from the free-throw line was embarrassing in the first two games of the series. On Sunday, the team went 24 of 28 from the line.
James led the Heat with 22 points, scoring 18 in the first half to go along with four rebounds and three assists. He went to his post game in first half and couldn’t be stopped.
Wade had 18 points and eight assists in arguably his best game of the playoffs. His driving dunk through the teeth of the Pacers’ defense with 2:46 left in the third quarter gave the Heat an 87-72 lead and signaled the healthiest he has felt in more than two months. Miami poured it on from there.
A three-pointer by Allen with 9:34 left in the game gave the Heat a 21-point lead. Allen was 0 of 11 from the field in games played in Indiana this season before he knocked down a three-pointer with 17.8 seconds left in the half. The shot tied the Heat’s all-time playoff record for points in a half.