Entering the Eastern Conference Finals, the major storyline of the series came from the league’s best offense (Miami) facing off with the league’s best defense (Indiana) in a battle of absolute strengths squaring off. On Sunday night, the Miami offense was simply too much for Indiana’s defense, and for one half of basketball, the Heat were historically impressive in route to a 114-96 victory and a 2-1 series advantage.
After a run-and-gun first quarter that saw a combined 64 points from the two teams (the highest-scoring quarter of the series), Miami kept up the manic offensive pace with 36 points in the second frame, and in the process, grabbed a 14-points halftime lead. The Heat scored a staggering 70 points in the first 24 minutes, and their offensive efficiency in the half was so off-the-charts that it almost seemed like a misprint.
Miami scored those 70 points on just 44 possessions, which was good for 159 points per 100 possessions, and they did so while only attempting 5 three-point shots. For reference, Miami led the NBA with 110.3 points per 100 possessions on the season, and the 159-point pace against the league’s best defensive unit was unforeseen and historically fantastic.
When the dust settled, Miami cruised through the second half, maintaining (and extending) their 14-point halftime lead to the end, and the 114-96 final score was indicative of their extremely high level of play. Lebron James led the way, as usual, for Miami with 22 points (on 8-for-17 shooting), 4 rebounds, and 3 assists, but it was a big-time balance that keyed things for the Heat. All five Heat starters were in double-figures by the end of the 3rd quarter, as unsung heroes like Udonis Haslem (8-for-9 shooting, 17 points) combined with “big three” members Chris Bosh (6-for-10, 15 points) and Dwyane Wade (8-for-14, 18 points, 8 assists) to surround Lebron with efficient offensive production.
Lebron’s excellence was understated in this particular game, as he was on cruise-control for much of the night, but he led all players with a +21 +/- on the night, and it was Indiana’s inability to contain him that allowed Miami’s offense to explode. Mid-season acquisition Chris Anderson also had a stellar game for Miami, as he scored 9 points and grabbed 9 rebounds in 21 minutes, but the most impressive stat for Anderson is the fact he has not missed a single field goal attempt (15-for-15) in his last four games.
On the Indiana side, they simply had no answers on the defensive end. Roy Hibbert had a tremendous game (20 points, 17 rebounds) and David West was his typical, efficient self (21 points, 10 rebounds, 8-for-16 shooting), but the aforementioned defensive issues couldn’t be cured. Frank Vogel made the curious decision to leave Sam Young and Paul George isolated on an island with Lebron James for much of the night, and the Heat scored at will in the paint throughout the night.
Fortunately for the Pacers, Miami’s barrage from Sunday night accounts for exactly one victory. The Pacers will undoubtedly go back to the drawing board defensively, and this series is far from over with Miami’s 2-1 advantage. On the opposite side, however, the Heat showed their “extra gear” in Game 3, and reminded the NBA world of the heights of their ceiling as an offensive juggernaut with an effectively-perfect half of basketball. As the series heads to Game 4, the focus will be squarely on Indiana to defend their home-court, and they are in a virtual must-win scenario, as a 3-1 deficit when the series shifts back to Miami would spell almost-definite defeat in the series.