Miami Heat vs Indiana Pacers

paul george pacers heat may 2014

In Game 3, Indiana looked to establish the post early; luckily for the Pacers, Roy Hibbert came to play. Hibbert set the tone in the paint, netting 10 points in the first quarter.

Lance Stephenson made noise in the first half as well, banging on the boards to the tune of nine rebounds in the opening half. Indiana wreaked havoc on the Heat, forcing them into six turnovers in the first quarter. They led, 21-14, after one period of play.

In the second quarter, the Heat continued to struggle to hold onto the ball, turning it over another five times for a grand total of 11 first half turnovers. Luis Scola scorched the Heat by scoring eight in a row for Indiana as the Pacers build their lead to as much 15.

The Heat used a 16-5 run to close the half down only six, 44-38. The 38 points by the Heat was their lowest total in a half all season. In the third quarter the Heat offense came alive. Miami went on a 10-2 run to pull even with the Pacers as Wade opened the half with six quick points to rev the Heat engine.

The Heat maintained a small lead, but grew it to seven points when Dwyane Wade drilled a three at teh end of the period. Wade scored 10 in the third and then drilled a three to start the final period to give the Heat a 10-point advantage.

Paul George was virtually nowhere to be found through three quarters and looked out of synch after missing two days of practice due to concussion symptoms. George had a mere six points heading into the final period before stepping up when his team needed him most by scoring 11 in the fourth quarter.

After a technical foul on Chris Bosh sent George to the free throw line, PG sank all three of his attempts to pull Indiana within two points. That is when Ray Allen took the opportunity to remind everyone that he is the greatest three-point shooter of all time. Allen knocked down four threes on his way to 13 points in the final eight minutes of the game to seal the 99-87 Miami victory and a 2-1 series lead.

The Heat used the three-ball to great effect going 10-18 from three-point range for the game. The Pacers, on the other hand, only sank 6-of-21 attempts. Roy Hibbert was limited to six points over the final three quarters of the game and somehow was only able to collect one rebound per half.

After Game 3, the storyline was Lance Stephenson’s talk of LeBron James’ trash talking. In Game 4, LeBron let his game do the talking like he always has, but he got some help along the way.

Having previously scored fewer than 10 points per game in each of the Heat’s seven postseason matchups against the Pacers, Chris Bosh came out of the gate to score the Heat’s first eight points. David West kept his team in the game with six first quarter points, but the Heat were getting scoring from all five positions as they took an eight-point lead into the second quarter.

Miami maintained their lead throughout most of the second quarter. Chris Bosh helped the Heat answer a scoring barrage by Pacers, scoring seven in a row before a mini-run from Miami extended their lead to 11. West again stepped up and scored five points in the final two minutes of the period to cut the Heat lead back to five heading into halftime.

The Heat scored seven straight points to open the third quarter and extend their lead to 12. Miami was able to answer anytime the Pacers cut into that lead. The Heat extended their lead thanks to a 7-0 run that stretched the difference to 19. The Pacers fell further behind in the final period and were down by as many as 23.

A 13-1 run led by Paul George and his hot shooting made the score more respectable, but Miami was able to hold on for the 102-90 win. LeBron answered the call from Lance Stephenson, scoring 32 and ripping down 10 rebounds. Chris Bosh finished with 25 points, his highest point total against the Pacers so far this series.

In Game 5, Paul George looked determine to do all he could to help his team extend the series. George scored six of the first eight Pacer points, and ripped four rebounds in the first six minutes of the opening quarter.

The Heat used a 7-0 run in the second quarter to take a three point lead at 27-24. The only sure fire way to beat the Heat is to prevent LeBron James from playing and the Pacers were able to do that. James picked up his third foul of the game with six minutes to play in the second quarter, sending him to the bench for the remainder of the half.

His teammates picked him up, outscoring Indiana by 13 with James on the bench. Ray Allen, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade picked up the scoring mantle for James, netting 10, nine and eight points respectively in the first half. The Heat were able to head to halftime with a 42-33 lead despite James only collecting two points.

James started the second half, but picked up his fourth foul when he fouled Roy Hibbert for the and-one opportunity. Erik Spoelstra left James in the game only to have him pick up his fifth foul almost two minutes later. LeBron headed to the bench having played just 13 minutes to that point.

With LeBron once again relegated to the bench, the Pacers went on an 15-2 run to erase the Miami lead and take a 52-50 lead with 3:45 remaining in the quarter. Indiana was able to grow their lead in the quarter thanks to the stellar defensive intensity of Lance Stephenson.

A buzzer-beating three from Paul George capped a 27-12 run and gave the Pacers a seven-point lead heading into the fourth quarter. George stayed hot through the fourth quarter, scoring nine points in the opening three minutes of the period to help Indiana to a 77-66 lead with nine minutes remaining.

The Heat then went on a 12-2 run of their own to pull within one point before Paul George closed the game. George scored another 14 points in the final four minutes to keep Indiana in front. The Heat actually had a chance for a go-ahead three in the final moments, but Chris Bosh’s attempt fell short and the Pacers escaped with the 93-90 win.

Paul George absolutely took control, scoring 31 points in the second half and 21 in the fourth quarter. The fact that the Heat could stay competitive with LeBron on the bench much of the game was all due to Rashard Lewis. Lewis had 18 points on six three-point baskets, and he hit some big shots when the Heat needed him most.

These teams head back to Miami for Game 6 as the Heat continue their pursuit of their fourth straight Finals. No team has appeared in four straight Finals since the Boston Celtics achieved that mark in 1985.

Oklahoma City Thunder vs San Antonio Spurs

serge ibaka may 2014

After the Thunder were blown out of the building in the first two games in San Antonio, OKC headed home looking for solace and a spark. They got both in the form of news that Serge Ibaka would be returning from what once was thought to be a season-ending calf injury.

Ibaka’s return was reminiscent of Willis Reed returning to the floor for the New York Knicks in Game 7 of the NBA Finals in 1972. The big differences being Ibaka contributed more than Reed did in his return (and this is not quite Game 7 of the Finals).

Ibaka scored eight points on 4-of-4 shooting with two big blocks in the first five minutes of the game. Ibaka’s energetic play fueled his teammates and the fans. Despite all the emotion from the Thunder, Manu Ginobili was able to keep his team in the game. Manu had nine points in the first quarter to secure a 29-28 lead for the Spurs heading into the second period.

In the second quarter, Ginobili and Russell Westbrook put on a show. With the Thunder up two with six minutes remaining in the half, the two opposing guards took things over for their teams on offense. Westbrook had 12 points all in the final half of the quarter, but it wasn’t enough for the Thunder to pull away.

That is because Ginobili had 11 points in the final 4:15 of the second quarter, capping his his 20-point first half performance with a three with only five seconds remaining. Not to be outdone, Westbrook hit a three from 26 feet out as time expired to give the Thunder a 57-53 halftime lead.

Oklahoma City opened up the second half with a 10-2 run to extend their lead to 10 less than four minutes into the third quarter. During that run, San Antonio missed five shots in a row as the presence of Ibaka in the middle seemed to make the Spurs think twice before driving the lane, thus slowing down their decision making.

In the third quarter, the Thunder paraded to the foul line to the tune of 18 points from the charity stripe. But the Spurs kept converting to keep the Thunder lead to seven heading into the fourth quarter.

The Thunder opened up a 17-point lead thanks to another 12-2 run to start the fourth quarter. Popovich pulled his starters with his team down 99-82, content to live another day. The Spurs reserves made the game close in the final minutes, but they never really threatened as Oklahoma City won their first game of the series, 106-97.

In Game 4, the Thunder continued to play with a sense of urgency on both ends of the court. Reggie Jackson was again in the starting lineup, but exited early with an ankle sprain to be replaced by Jeremy Lamb. Russell Westbrook kept pushing the pace, attacking the rim on his way to 11 first-quarter points.

The Thunder closed the opening period on a 13-2 run to lead, 26-20. Tony Parker did his best to pull the Spurs out of their offensive malaise leading the Spurs with eight first quarter points.

In the second quarter the Thunder continued to be the aggressors, turning steals into layups and thoroughly disrupting San Antonio’s offense. The Spurs held the ball a lot, trading their trademark pinpoint passing for extensive dribbling showcases that yielded mixed results.

If San Antonio was hesitant to challenge Ibaka in Game 3, then they flat out refused to attack the basket when Ibaka was in during Game 4. In fact, the Spurs took their first free throws of the contest with 5:40 remaining in the first half. The Thunder had already attempted 10 shots from the line by that point.

OKC made a living on the break, holding a 17-0 scoring advantage after Kevin Durant connected on a three-pointer on his way to hitting seven straight shots. KD finished the half with 22 points and Westbrook with 17 to go with eight assists and four steals as the Thunder took a 58-43 lead into halftime.

In the third quarter, the Thunder blew the game wide open. A Reggie Jackson three gave the Thunder a 20-point lead with seven minutes remaining in the quarter. That is when Greg Popovich gazed on the faces of his aging stars and threw in the towel, removing all his starters from the game for the second game in a row (this time in the third period).

Westbrook took the opportunity to score 11 of his team’s next 12 points as the Thunder led by as many as 27, but took a 16-point lead into the final period. The Spurs reserves played valiantly and caused the Thunder to keep their starters on the floor for most of the game. Wesbrook ended the game with 40 points on 50 percent shooting in 46 minutes. Durant finished with 31 points.

The Spurs had no answers for the athleticism of the the Thunder on the break nor their activity on defense. San Antonio has now lost nine straight games in Oklahoma City and are now assured of one more trip to their house of horrors before this one is settled.


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