INDIANAPOLIS -- The Heat ought to be peaking as it weaves its way through the playoffs toward a third consecutive appointment in the climactic NBA Finals.
Instead, Miami is regressing.
The Heat looked like a team adrift for large portions of a 91-77 Game 6 loss Saturday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Now the Heat faces the migraine of Game 7 in Miami on Monday as the San Antonio Spurs drum their fingers impatiently. Or, maybe they are licking their lips.
LeBron James was whistled for charging into Roy Hibbert in the closing minutes. He sprinted away from the official, spitting mad, looking like he would rip off his headband and tear it apart. Then he and assistant coach David Fizdale were assessed technical fouls for protesting too much. The sequence captured the harried state of a team under unaccustomed duress.
Miami will be favored to close it out back home by the bay. Still, the buts continue to outnumber the baskets.
Worrisome signs are not going away.
Foremost among them, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh have turned into the Other Two in this series. They shot a combined 1 for 10 in the first half, were not factors when the game was on the line in the fourth quarter and finished with a total of 15 points, six rebounds, five turnovers and one assist.
Wade, limited by his bruised right knee, made just 3 of 11 shots as his once stellar 22-point scoring average as a playoff go-to guy shrunk closer to half that. He’s hurting, but he also seems detached.
Bosh appeared befuddled, made a mere one of eight shots and lost his touch as he fumbled the ball away on a few occasions. Bosh could not dent the Pacers in the paint, where they outscored Miami 44-22 and outrebounded Miami 53-33.
Those are embarrassing, unacceptable numbers for the Heat.
The series is tied 3-3, and Miami is getting by because of the Atlas-sized shoulders of James. And we all know how that worked out in Cleveland.
James took his talents to South Beach so he could play on a legitimate team. But for the second game in a row, he had to take over for his faltering teammates. Despite 29 points, seven rebounds and six assists, he could not rescue this one.
Give the ball to LeBron and get out of his way: That’s not much of a plan.
Counting on the Pacers’ bad turnover habit isn’t working either.
“They just flat-out beat us in every facet,” Spoelstra said. “Everything we have to do to win this series we gave up. We struggled with open shots, open layups and opportunities in the open court.”
Spoelstra has to find a way to immerse Wade and Bosh in the action. They need to get the ball in their sweet spots. And their batteries must be jumped.
Miami is getting blistered in the paint and pounded on the boards while Pacers coach Frank Vogel continues to counter Miami’s adjustments on his big men. Bosh, formerly an excellent rebounder, is now reduced to a spot-up shooter — and his helpmates at center have been manhandled by Roy Hibbert, who took 20 shots, scored 24 points and hauled in 11 rebounds. His scoring average in this series is double that of the regular season. Not only is he looking like Bill Russell but the Heat also parted the lane for Lance Stephenson (12 rebounds) and David West (14 rebounds).
West, playing sick, out-gutted the Heat for a loose ball and field goal.
“We like to muck it up,” Hibbert said.