Here's the rub with the moral victory thing, though. The Pacers and Pacer fans didn't have to be convinced that this team could hang with Miami. They've seen it with their own eyes. Still, if the Pacers don't learn how to close out these games, this series might be shorter than it ought to be.
I'm not in panic mode quite yet, though. Like I referenced earlier, the Pacers had a staggeringly bad loss to Orlando in the first game of that series, and in Indianapolis, no less. They bounced back and took the next four straight relatively easily. This isn't exactly the same thing, but the Pacers had the Heat down for three quarters or better in that game before finally losing it at the end. I know the team wasn't happy with the officiating, and I wasn't entirely pleased, either. But, that wasn't the difference here.
The Pacers, unfortunately, kind of freaked out a little bit. When Miami made their run in the third quarter, I thought the team did a very good job of responding and keeping the game tied by the end of the quarter. But the panic was starting to set in. You could see* that the sets weren't nearly as crisp in the second half, which led to quite a few wild passes. The shot selection was, well, not as a prudent as the first half. We'll put it that way. I'm sure some of that was because the Pacers were having trouble adjusting to the new Miami defense. Lastly, the three pointer was virtually non-existent. Miami wasn't having any luck with it, either, thankfully, but we saw in the Orlando series that the Pacers need that shot to be successful.
*And the broadcast team made sure you didn't miss it. I don't know how many times this was said, during the third quarter especially.
Going forward, I think the Pacers are still going to be able to win two or three games at least in this series. This team is not going to stay cold forever, and I think they'll be less intimidated as the series wears on. Chris Bosh, you might have noticed, didn't play in the second half after injuring himself right before halftime. If that knocks Bosh out for a few games, or the series, it could be a huge blow for the Heat, because the Pacers already had Miami out-sized. That should magnify that advantage. Danny Granger is also not going to spend too many halves scoreless, as he was in the first half yesterday.*
*I don't think the Pacers really missed his scoring, though. That's not a blow against Danny, either. Just an indication of how this Pacer team is built. You know, as a team. Not a superstar or two and then his supporting cast. Please, ESPN, you need to be playing up this angle during this series. It really writes itself.
So, yeah, as disappointing as yesterday was, the Pacers still having something left in the tank to win a few of these games. This was not an inferior team taking its best shot and simply falling short. I'm not picking the Pacers to win this series, and I haven't all along. But they will win some games, I promise you that.