The effort? Certainly grittier than the debacle two nights earlier in Charlotte.
The energy? Much more respectable.
The result? That, alas, was no different that most previous Miami Heat regular-season visits to Indianapolis.
And the second-half execution wasn’t any better, either.
Undone by turnovers, tepid second-half shooting and a late third-quarter Pacers blitz, the Heat fell 96-83 on Friday night at BankersLife Fieldhouse, losing its third consecutive game overall and its ninth in a row in Indianapolis.
“We played a good first half,” Dwyane Wade said. But “we played a stinker of a third quarter.”
This one was eminently winnable, with the Heat leading 48-47 at the half and 62-60 with just over four minutes left in the third quarter.
But the Pacers closed the third on a 17-6 run, most of it achieved with Wade and Chris Bosh on the bench.
The Pacers shot 14 for 26 in a 30-point third quarter after making just 14 of 43 shots in the first half.
“We did a good job in the half-court defense,” Wade said. “In transition, we didn’t do a good job.”
On the other end, the Heat scored just 35 points after halftime, making only 13 of 37 shots.
Just as hurtful as the poor shooting, if not more so, were the 19 turnovers, leading to 24 Pacers points.
Goran Dragic committed five of them, Justise Winslow and Bosh four apiece.
Wade said the Heat’s turnovers are especially problematic because Miami doesn’t have a high volume of possessions to begin with, because “we play a slower pace than what the league is going. … This is what we have. No one is coming out of the stands to help us. We can’t change that. That’s our roster. We have to figure out how to make it work.”
Bosh seemed especially bothered by “the unforced errors, attacking when nothing’s there. On the road, 19 turnovers isn’t going to get it done. We have to bring that down 30, 40 percent at least.”
Wade and Bosh were aggressive and efficient early, each scoring 14 in the first half.
“Chris, some games he decides to come out passive and some … aggressive,” Wade said. “It was good to see him aggressive tonight.”
But Bosh shot only 2 for 7 in the second half, closing with 23 points and 10 boards. Wade scored only six in the second half on 3-for-11 shooting, finishing with 20 points.
Gerald Green (13 points) was Miami’s only other player in double figures.
“They forced us into a lot of shots outside the paint,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We weren’t able to get to the line.”
To wit: The Heat shot 8 for 13 on free throws, while Indiana was 18 for 20.
Indiana’s Paul George — the NBA’s third-leading scorer at 27.9 per game — missed 10 of 17 shots but hit all eight of his free throws on a 23-point night.
The Heat also couldn’t slow guard Monta Ellis (24 points) or center Ian Mahinmi, who had 18 points and 12 rebounds.
As for Hassan Whiteside, he managed just five first-half minutes before picking up three fouls, and finished with 8 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks in 17 minutes. Whiteside has blocked at least two shots in all 21 games — the third-longest streak to start a season over the past 30 years, two behind Shaquille O’Neal and three behind Mark Eaton.
But for the third consecutive game, Whiteside did not play in the fourth quarter, though Wednesday’s Charlotte game was extended garbage time in a blowout.
Whiteside said his ankle, which kept him out of practice Thursday, felt better during the game and wasn’t a factor.
Playing without guard Tyler Johnson (shoulder) and forward Josh McRoberts (knee maintenance), Spoelstra shuffled his rotation, inserting Amar’e Stoudemire, Josh Richardson and Beno Udrih and returning Luol Deng to the starting lineup after using him off the bench in his first game back from a hamstring injury. That allowed Green to resume coming off the bench.
But the point-guard play was subpar, Dragic finishing with as many turnovers as points (five) and Udrih committing two turnovers in 14 minutes.
After an encouraging 12-6 start this season, the Heat has now dropped three in a row, all against Eastern Conference opponents: Washington, Charlotte and Indiana.
“Everybody goes through slumps,” Bosh said. “It’s part of a group that has not played a lot together. We have to stop it, figure it out together. We have to keep our spirits high.”
The Heat has now lost 43 of 52 regular-season games all time in Indianapolis.