The Indiana Pacers seemed to gain an advantage an hour before tip-off Monday in their effort to even the Eastern Conference finals against the Heat.
Chris Andersen, one of the Heat’s most valuable big men off the bench in the series, was scratched from lineup with a bruised left thigh.
So how would the Heat compensate?
The Heat started Rashard Lewis hoping his shooting touch would provide some spacing and help defensively.
Lewis did the latter for the Heat, and so did Udonis Haslem and Shane Battier off the bench, as the Heat led wire-to-wire and took control of the series with a 102-90 victory.
“There’s so many different ways to impact the game and win,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We wanted him to help maintain a little bit of our rotation.
The adjusted lineup limited the Pacers’ key contributors in spite of power forward David West putting together a great game on the stat sheet.
West finished with a double-double, scoring 20 points and totaling 12 rebounds and four assists.
Lewis finished with zero points — going 0 for 5 from the field.
But neither of those results hampered the Heat’s performance much as the Heat outscored the Pacers by 14 while Lewis was on the court.
“I get a kick out of it,” Spoelstra said. “Rashard gets zeroes all the way across the scoreboard and still finishes a plus-14. As soon as I found out, I went and told him.”
Added Lewis, who added three rebounds and two key steals that sparked a third-quarter run: “That’s what I want and that’s what I like to do.
“I think my first year here I had to adjust to it. It’s all about winning on this team, and it makes the adjustment to focus more on the defensive end a lot easier.”
The Heat held Roy Hibbert scoreless on 0-for-4 shooting in 22 minutes played.
Lance Stephenson scored only one point until the 5:31 mark of the fourth quarter when his layup cut the Heat’s lead at the time to 16. He finished with nine points.
Lewis started his first playoff game since 2010 with the Orlando Magic and his first game overall since Jan. 10.
Lewis, Haslem and Battier each defended West and helped the Heat separate in the third quarter and take control of the game. Miami led by as many as 23 points in the fourth quarter.
Andersen averaged seven points and seven rebounds per game for the first three games of the series.
He sustained the injury in Game 3 and has also been dealing with a shin and foot injury as well.
“I had a little bit of a feeling last night he wouldn’t play,” Spoelstra said. “He kept saying he wanted to play and fight through it. The range of motion in his thigh wasn’t great right now.”
Battier and Haslem each finished with only five points.
But it was their defensive efforts that the Heat needed to most impact the game.
The Heat got its best game of the series from Chris Bosh, who finished with 25 points and six rebounds and finished plus-17 during his time in the game.
Bosh scored the Heat’s first eight points and went 3 for 5 from three-point range.
And LeBron James scored 14 of his 32 points in the third quarter in which the Heat extended its lead from five at halftime to 16 by the end of the quarter.