The Heat can talk over and over, in many different ways, about needing to fix its rebounding problem.
But identifying the problem and solving it are two very different things.
And solving it remains elusive, especially against teams with above-average size and skill at the power positions.
For the second time in a week, the Heat allowed a playoff-caliber team to pummel Miami on the boards in a demoralizing 87-77 loss to the Pacers on Tuesday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
“It’s got to stop,” coach Erik Spoelstra said after the sixth game this season in which Miami has been outrebounded by at least 15. “At some point we’ll get pushed to the brink.”
There were myriad factors that left Miami with just a 7-7 record on the road, compared with 16-3 at home:
• There was the 55-36 Pacers domination on the boards, including a 22-7 margin on the offensive boards, which resulted in Indiana outscoring the Heat 23-6 on second-chance points. That explains why the Pacers won on a night they shot only 36.3 percent.
• There was a rare mortal night from LeBron James, who opened 2 for 7 and closed with 22 points and seven turnovers.
• There was little offensive contribution from Shane Battier (scoreless, 0 for 3), Ray Allen (scoreless, 0 for 5) and Mario Chalmers (three points, 1 for 6).
• There was an eruption from Indiana’s Paul George, who scored 22 of his 29 in the second half.
• And then there was this: The Heat’s inability to get Dwyane Wade involved after a 23-point first half.
After shooting 8 for 12 before intermission, Wade inexplicably didn’t even attempt a shot in the third quarter and went 1 for 4 from the field in the fourth to close with 30.
So what happened?
“I don’t know, man,” Wade said. “I’m playing team basketball. When opportunities came, I take them.”
Spoelstra explained it this way: “That’s just the flow of the game. They did a good job getting up on our first and second options.”
Thanks largely to Wade, the Heat did enough right to build a 51-44 lead early in the third. But the Pacers then overwhelmed Miami with a 33-9 run to surge ahead 77-60.
During that stretch, George outscored the Heat on his own, 12-9. The Pacers went cold late — going 4:33 without scoring — and Miami rallied to make the final score less lopsided.
The biggest issue was Miami’s inability to keep the Pacers from playing volleyball on the boards. Indiana’s 19-rebound advantage came four days after the Bulls outrebounded the Heat by 20.
“I wish I had the answers,” Chris Bosh said. “I don’t know what it is. We’re going to have to change something up.
“We’re doing the same things and it’s resulting in the same things.”
Roy Hibbert had nine offensive rebounds and 14 overall. George and David West added 11 rebounds apiece.
Meanwhile, Bosh managed only five rebounds in 36 minutes, and Udonis Haslem four in 24 minutes, with James leading Miami in that category with 10.
Thanks to their exceptional rebounding, the Pacers attempted an eye-opening 91 shots from the field, compared with 68 for the Heat.
“It’s very frustrating,” James said. “You are busting your tail to get stops, and every time we would get a stop, it seemed like we’d give up second chance points.
“They had 22 offensive rebounds and 23 second-chance points. It’s tough to win that way. It’s reached that point where we have to figure it out.”
Held to eight points in the first half, James rallied in the second half to reach the 20-point mark for the 54th consecutive game, including playoffs. He has scored at least 20 in all 33 games this season, the second-longest streak to open a season in NBA history, behind George Gervin’s 45 in a row.
But James wasn’t especially sharp, by his standards. He failed to hit the rim on one driving layup. He shot 1 for 4 from the line.
Little bench help
And the Heat’s ensemble of perimeter players provided little support. Indiana’s bench outscored Miami’s 22-8.
“We were not fluid offensively,” Spoelstra said. “They grinded us to a halt.”
The Pacers entered allowing opponents to shoot only 41 percent — best in the league — and relinquishing 89.8 points per game, second best behind Memphis.
The Heat entered with the league’s highest shooting percentage at 49.0 and fourth-highest scoring average at 103 per game.
On Tuesday, Miami shot just 41 percent and set a new season-low point total.
“I trust and believe we’ll find a way,” Wade said after Miami’s fourth loss in seven games. “We always do.”