The Pacers’ lineup against the Heat was almost unrecognizable from last season’s Eastern Conference finals.
Ever hear of Donald Sloan? He started at guard.
How about Solomon Hill? Another no-name backcourt starter.
Maybe Chris Copeland rings a bell? He sat the bench last season, but at least he has that head of recognizably long hair.
Some guy named Damjan Rudez plays for the Pacers. He was really big last season … in Croatia.
Those No Name Pacers and one very familiar paint presence handed the Heat its most sobering regular-season defeat of the past five years on Wednesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Center Roy Hibbert was in the middle for Indiana, so no one else really mattered in the Heat’s embarrassing 81-75 loss. The Pacers (3-6) outrebounded the Heat (5-3) 53-28, including 16-6 on the offensive glass.
“They dogged us on the glass,” said Dwyane Wade, who had 20 points, three assists and four rebounds.
Chris Bosh, who entered the game averaging more than 20 points and 10 rebounds, had nine points and two rebounds against Hibbert.
“Roy, he’s a good defender,” Bosh said. “They gave me space and contested late, and I’ve got to knock those shots down. I missed easy looks, and I was in foul trouble, and then we didn’t move the ball.
“This offense is predicated on ball movement, and they really flattened us out today. … They did a good defensive job of taking us out of what we wanted to do. We didn’t have much trust tonight.”
The Heat had 18 assists to 11 turnovers, and the poor rebounding combined with off nights offensively for Bosh (3-of-13 shooting) and Luol Deng (2 of 10) gave a Pacers team without Paul George, David West, C.J. Miles and Rodney Stuckey (all out with injuries) a chance. But it took even more ineptness by the home team to actually give the Pacers the advantage in the end.
The Heat shot 8 of 18 from the free-throw line. That made for one of the game’s many statistical oddities. The Heat actually shot better from three-point range (45 percent) than from the charity stripe (44.4 percent).
Despite all that — the rebounds, the poor shooting and the missed free throws — the Heat still had a chance at the end.
A three-pointer by Wade tied the game at 75-75 with 1:26 to play, but a driving finger roll by Copeland and his long hair put the Pacers back on top. Mario Chalmers then committed an offensive foul driving to the basket with 20 seconds to play. A foul by Heat guard Norris Cole then put Sloan at the line for two free throws.
Chalmers asked for an explanation after the foul call, and he told the Miami Herald after the game that the referee pointed out that Chalmers could bench-press 245 pounds.
“That’s what I benched in college,” Chalmers said. “He probably thinks I can bench 600 pounds.”
Chalmers committed three turnovers in the game’s final two minutes.
The Heat led by nine points in the second quarter thanks to solid shooting by Shawne Williams. Williams finished with 15 points, going 5 of 6 from the field and 4 of 5 from three-point range.
“Once we got up by nine this game turned into a slugfest,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “It was back and forth, and whoever could make more plays and get more stops and make more rebounds and get some kind of flow offensively — it wasn’t aesthetically a great offensive game for either team.”
To wit: The Pacers shot 37.5 percent from the field, had 13 assists to 16 turnovers and won. Two of Indiana’s guards, Hill and backup A.J. Price, combined to go 4 of 24 from the field.
Hibbert had 16 points and 15 rebounds, Copeland finished with 17 points and five rebounds, and Sloan had 15 points and six rebounds.
“We’re going to have these kind of games,” Wade said. “This is Eastern Conference basketball.”
Just nothing like the brand of ball the Heat played in the Eastern final last season.