Miami Heat Confidence Meter: 9.4 (Dexter Pittman extension)
• Shane Battier got the Heat off to a good start, with his hot shooting, and his stellar defense on David West. It was interesting that of the first 10 Pacer sets, 7 of them called for a post feed of West. Battier fronted all of them, and that short circuited the Pacer offense. What made it that more satisfying was that West then complained vociferously to the Refs about being fouled, while he has a 40 pound weight advantage on Battier. Great game planning by the Heat, and good, smart defense by Battier. In this game, you had the Pacers immediately settling for long jumpers from the opening tip. According to followers of this Indiana franchise, that is a trend that usually rears its ugly head late in games and in the 4th quarter. This time, they started the game that way. The Heat are that good defensively. They can systematically dissect each possession, and push their opponent to the shot they want them to take. This is where a great scorer and isolation player can come in handy. Then again, that guy would get Lebron James on him. This just in, the Heat play good defense.
• So Indiana’s chippy play finally came to a head. Dwyane Wade on an attack, took an excessive foul from Tyler Hansbrough, and then on an ensuing possession, Udonis Haslem retaliated with one of his own on “Psycho T”. Justice. Both were deemed Flagrant 1′s, but Haslem’s drew the ire of Steve Kerr on the TNT broadcast, and the comments of professional halftime clown, Charles Barkley. We know what that’s about, so there is no more need for outrage. Just accept the hate. Let it shower upon you. It’s fuel for this team, so just let it make your ultimate satisfaction that more sweet. The Miami Heat on this night played with an edge and a sharpness that suggests that they feel as if they cheated themselves by losing two games to this opponent. With Chris Bosh healthy, we all know that this series would have likely ended last night, if not in 4 games. The Pacers cannot score efficiently against this Heat defense, and they do not have a reliable scorer to bail them out of lost possessions. In this respect, they are not much better than the New York Knicks, and we saw how that series ended.
• What else can you say for Lebron James? How bout this: The last time a player had back to back playoff performances that achieved at least 30-10-8 in the boxscore, that player was Oscar Robertson. 40 years ago. We are witnessing an all-time great doing his thing at the height of his powers. Enjoy this. On this night, Pace and Space returned and Coach Erik Spoelstra was not seen pleading for his team to push the pace off of misses. It just came natural. From Mario Chalmers, to Norris Cole, and every other ball handler as well, they looked for every opportunity to push the ball up court. It is about time. Part of the Heat’s smart play consisted of a concerted effort by Heat defenders to step over screens that were set for George Hill. That resulted in difficult looks from three for Hill, and when his shooting is hampered, Hill is an ineffective player. This series now sets up for an end on Thursday night. The Heat know what they have to do to be effective, and possible suspension aside, the Pacers are also now dealing with a Granger ankle injury and West knee sprain. This thing looks to end in 6.
• So when do we start talking about a Dexter Pittman extension?
The Heat is in Indiana for Game 6 Thursday. Tipoff is at 8:00pm.