If the Heat had it its way, the team might have gone behind the arena after the game and burned those ugly throwback jerseys for good.
Unfortunately, there are annoying things like contracts and money to consider, so the jerseys will be worn for the rest of the month. The smell of Friday night’s 102-89 loss to the Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse might linger inside the threads that long.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said before the game that his team would have to approach the Pacers with “pads up and mouthpieces in.” The Pacers knocked those mouthpieces out with their bullying brand of basketball. With only one game remaining between the teams, the Pacers already have won the season series. Indiana (28-19) joins the Knicks as the only teams with two victories against the Heat this season.
Excluding the Nets, the Heat is 0-5 against the top teams in the Eastern Conference this season. When asked about that record after the game, LeBron James shot back that it didn’t matter.
“We’re not worried about that,” James said. “We don’t put too much into losing a game or winning a game; we want to get better from those games.
“We don’t need victories versus top-four teams to prove what we’re capable of doing. We don’t need them. We’d love to have them, but we don’t need them.”
That sentiment was pretty apparent early in the third quarter. The Heat trailed 53-45 at halftime, then watched the Pacers run away with the game in the third quarter. James finished with 28 points, six rebounds and three assists. Dwyane Wade had 17 points, six rebounds, five assists, two steals and two blocks.
“That third quarter, they came out and they established what they wanted,” James said. “David West got it going. He had a heck of a game, and they didn’t miss too many shots coming out of the half.”
Led by West, the Pacers scored 48 points in the paint and shot 55.7 percent from the field. West scored 30 points, hitting his first 10 shots of the game, and finished with seven rebounds and five assists. The high percentage allowed the Pacers to overcome 17 turnovers, which the Heat converted into 23 points. That was pretty much all the Heat did right in Indianapolis, but it hardly mattered.
West threw down a two-handed dunk in transition with 2:27 left in the third quarter to give the Pacers a 78-57 lead. He scored 12 points in the third period, and his powerful dunk was the finishing touch on a 14-1 run. The Heat (29-14) cut the Pacers’ lead to 12 points with 3:27 left, but a breakaway layup following a turnover by the Heat put the game out of reach.
West was 12 of 15 from the field, and the Pacers shot a season-high field-goal percentage. Indiana has only shot above 50 percent from the field three times this season. With arguably the best defense in the NBA, Indiana is now 22-3 when holding an opponent to less than 90 points.
“They hit a lot of shots that were open,” said Chris Bosh, who had 13 points and just two rebounds while playing with a sore foot. “When you give up open looks in the first half, it’s harder to stop teams because they have a rhythm. They can see the basket a little better.”
It was an all-around frustrating night, and the Heat picked up four technical fouls as proof. Bosh lost his cool and was tagged with a technical foul in the first half for arguing a foul call. Shane Battier received a technical foul for shoving West. Udonis Haslem was assessed his technical foul for shouting obscenities at an official. Spoelstra picked up his tech in the third quarter after a non-call situation under the Heat’s rim.
“We were frustrated,” Battier said. “Part of it was their defense. They played well. And part of it was our lack of focus. You have nights like this, but we need to do a better job of righting the ship without giving away too many free throws.”
The Pacers were 17 of 24 from the free-throw line, and the Heat was 18 of 24. First-time All-Star Paul George had 15 points, going 6 of 11 from the field. Lance Stephenson, who got in James’ face at one point in the second half before being pushed away, had 15 points, three rebounds and four assists. Guard George Hill had 12 points before leaving the game in the second half with an injured left shoulder. Hill injured his shoulder while trying to get past Wade.