Do I have to say this game is a big deal? This game is a big deal. Top two teams in the East. Until recently the two teams most experts would have picked for your NBA championship favorites. These teams haven't played _since very early on in the season, but those two games delivered on the hype and then some. Both teams are still solidly amongst the top teams in the league, despite slipping lately. ESPN moved their set to the Fieldhouse for the day and is carrying the game. Last time that happened for a regular season NBA game? Oh, just Pacers vs. Heat earlier in the year. These are simply THE two teams most people want to see.
As somebody who has grown up with the Pacers and this area for his entire life, let me tell you, the buzz for this team is easily the loudest it's been since the Reggie Miller vs. the Knicks days. And, with every college in the state of Indiana seemingly in a downturn, the buzz for the professional team is probably at a fevered pitch never seen before. Yeah, football has made serious inroads in Indiana (and everywhere else, for that matter), but this is still Indiana, the land of Milan and The Big O and Larry Legend and so on and so forth. As the slogan goes, in 49 states, it's basketball, but this is Indiana.
Am I worried? Oh, goodness, yes. The Pacers have frankly not looked at all as of late. There is reason for concern. But we've certainly seen teams in every sport do this. There's no reason to think the season is over just yet or this team is going to roll over in a spot like this against the team that has been their foil the past few seasons.
The game is on ESPN, and I'm sure even around here, that telecast will get the vast majority of eyeballs. But I'm loyal to a fault. I'll be watching on Fox Sports Indiana like always. I can't say I care much for Quinn Buckner behind the mic, but Chris Denari is the best in the business. I thought that before I even knew he is a Wally. Here we go!
12:00 - The Fieldhouse is packed and amped as you would expect. When you talk about playoff atmosphere, this is what you talk about. Hell, most playoff games don't even have this sort of tension and electricity. Also, on the Heat side of things, it is nice to see Greg Oden get to start back in Indianapolis. I honestly never thought he'd play again, but there he is.
11:00 - The Heat bandwagon fans might be the worst in the history of sports fans. Really, people? That's the bandwagon you want to jump on? One of the most universally-agreed upon sports heels in recent memory? Whatever floats your boat, I suppose.
8:52 - I like the ball movement, though I was a bit worried when Lance passed up an open three. I felt better when an even more open PG was in the corner.
7:33 - It's pretty clear that Greg Oden has had the effect Miami wanted, opening up the lane on offense and giving the Pacers something to think about when they drive in. Two quick fouls might be just what the doctor ordered for that, though.
6:56 - Oden or no, it's just amazing how much better and engaged Roy Hibbert looks against the Heat. All in his head? Maybe. But it's real. He just has a confidence against this team you don't see from night to night.
6:10 - That Wade pass looked bad even by Bad Lance standards. Followed by a nice Hibbert move, which fores a Heat time out. 14-8 Pacers. Can we just call the game now?
5:32 - Speaking of Bad Lance, that pass ahead was awfully forced. To say the least.
4:36 - Air ball by Wade. He seems to be good for one or two of those a game. At least against the Pacers.
3:43 - That's one hell of a shot. It's also a hell of an ugly possession, but I won't complain too much about those three points. And a shot clock violation on the other end coming off of (arguably) a LeBron flop. Pretty sweet sequence.
2:07 - Inadvertent whistle? What the hell was that? That was two free fast break points. What can you do but shake your head, though.
1:06 - They're calling that a shooting foul? Hmm . . . the conspiracy theorist in me has no problem reading through these two calls. Also, still no CJ Watson. That injury has me worried. Donald Sloan is fine, but definitely a spare tire as a number two option. We will badly need Watson in games like this come April.
0:00 - A little sloppy at the end, but I will take that quarter, no doubt. 23-17 Pacers, and looking much more like the Pacer team that started the year as opposed to the Pacer team of the past couple weeks.
11:32 - Bench is in, and the offense instantly goes to crap. I'm getting awful flashbacks of the last two years when the starters would kick the Heat around, only to watch the bench totally blow it. Watson and Granger would be awfully nice.
10:34 - The bench scores, kind of. Lance hits a three. He can't do it by himself. Well, actually, he probably could. He would certainly try. I'd rather he didn't, though.
9:16 - Now that looked pretty nice. Nifty pass from Evan Turner to Ian Mahinmi. Followed by an iffy foul on Mahinmi when Birdman couldn't complete the alley oop. Replay shows it pretty damn clean, too. I'll have a tin foil hat made by the end of this game, I'm sure.
8:18 - Sure, it was another ill-advised pass, but I'll count that as another Wade air ball.
7:56 - Another bail out three, this time by Lance. I'll take it!
7:24 - The bench is driving me crazy, but I just realized the Pacers are still up nine, so they've held serve. That's all you can really ask for, really. Well, that and some fouls on LeBron, which just happened as well, coincidentally.
6:35 - Another pretty awful call in the Heat's favor. Funny how the Heat always seem to get the favorable whistles, no matter who they play.
5:12 - Wow, that whole sequence was just terrible, Pacers just throwing the ball all over. But they managed to trade buckets, so no real harm done. And then follow up it up with a PG steal and Lance three. I guess if those are the sorts of numbers your mistakes turn into, you don't have much to complain about.
3:34 - Roy makes a little hook type shot and couldn't help but smile about it running back on defense. There's still a long way to go, obviously, but things are just kind of going that way for the Pacers tonight. With the exceptions of the whistles, but that's to be expected.
2:25 - SO MANY FOULS. Miami is cutting into the lead, now at four, almost exclusively because of free throws. It's infuriating.
1:45 - And a slop three by Bosh to cut it to one, 40-39 Pacers. Frustrating? Of course, but I don't think anybody really thought the Pacers were going to lead this thing by ten or so the whole game. Weather the storm, it'll be okay.
1:15 - Tough call on George Hill on a potential jump ball with LeBron there, but probably the right one. See, I have no problem admitting when the Pacers do wrong, I promise.
43-42 Heat at the half. Am I bummed the Pacers couldn't hold onto the lead? Of course. But, I'm not all that worried about it. In the first game against the Heat this season, the Pacers were down 11 or something like that and were generally outplayed and out of sorts the whole half. They came back and won that one by six and felt like more. This game? One point is nothing, and the Pacers have generally outplayed the Heat pretty decisively. I'm still feeling good about this one at this point. I'm also feeling good about the frisbee dogs at halftime. Then again, if you can't get behind frisbee dogs, you might as well join Al-Qaeda.
10:30 - Hey, the Pacers got a whistle! How about that! And the PG free throws give us the lead back. And, yes, it took this long into the quarter for either team to score.
8:47 - Offensive foul on LeBron? Maybe reviewing the tape at halftime got into the refs heads. Michael Grady specifically said the officials wanted to know when the Mahinmni foul was, and I know they couldn't have been happy with that call.
6:59 - Roy Hibbert steal! How about that!
6:51 - A little scuffle there. Did I mention these teams really don't like each other, and haven't since the first playoff series? Well, these teams really don't like each other, and haven't since the first playoff series. No fouls or anything called after the "fight." Which is just as well, there really wasn't much there. Just a little jostling and jawing. I'm sure the Heat are fine with that, too, because I would never want to fight a team with David West on it. Ever, in anything.
6:25 - Offensive foul on Chris Bosh! What is going on here? I had written off getting any calls this game, and now they're coming in droves!
5:58 - Correction: Twitter tells me a double technical was called on Lance and Wade for the scuffle. That's basically nothing doing for it.
5:29 - LeBron gets a chance at a three point on a touch foul (missed the free throw) and taunts about it. No call on LeBron. To start the play, somebody, I think PG, was basically getting tackled under the basket so he couldn't grab the rebound. No call there, either. This is feeling more familiar.
3:36 - George Hill plays through the foul, drives in, and kicks out to an open PG who nails the three. That, my friends, is the purest basketball you will ever see. LeBron hit a fadeaway three on the other end to nullify the points, but it was still a hell of a play.
2:07 - Evan Turner comes into the game, and a pass to him immediately turns into a Miami fast break. Coincidence?
1:00 - This is a terrible time for the Heat to get hot. And Turner gets blocked. So glad we traded for this bum.
40.1 - If that's a flagrant foul, then the one where Wade bear hugged somebody earlier (maybe Roy?) should have been, too. And there's the downgrade. Thank you. Also mentioned was that Roy does not have a field goal this quarter. Haslem seems to be the only kryptonite the Heat have for Hibbert. Do you trust that to win four out of seven?
0:00 - Down five after three. A little more concerned, but not panicking yet. I just want to know where this team has been against all these crap teams when we could have been putting the conference away.
10:07 - Pacers have started this quarter a little better. But this is where you have to be the defensive team you claim you are. So far so good, I suppose.
9:35 - There was a nice PG dunk a little bit ago, but that one was with LeBron on his back It probably would have been a foul had it been the other way. Pretty impressive. Also cuts the Miami lead to one, 70-69. Heat time out. Come guys, just win this quarter from here.
9:35 - Coming out of the time out, you notice the Georges (Paul and Hill) are not coming out of the game. I don't expect that to happen for the rest of the night, either.
9:14 - Scola takes a good foul. And now they're going to look at that as flagrant? Oh my God. Come on. I did not realize LeBron was made of ancient porcelain. And now it's downgraded. Seriously, guys. That makes two flagrant fouls that were downgraded tonight. How is LeBron not paying a flopping fine after this game?
8:56 - Luis Scola has lost all ability to shoot over the last month or so. That is very concerning going forward. The bench already struggles enough to score, they have to have that midrange jumper out of Scola.
8:47 - Can we get a flagrant offensive foul, please? I'm not entirely joking here.
8:47 - Out of the time out, indeed, it is a flagrant foul. I would imagine all the blood streaming out of Roy's mouth helped with that.
8:32 - And LeBron immediately goes back to getting the benefit of the doubt. Basketball is funny sometimes.
7:24 - Open PG three for the lead. . .and it's out. Damn. At least Roy is headed back to the bench.
6:58 - PG grabbed at the legs as he goes up for a dunk to tie. Let's go to the monitor to see if it's flagrant! (That was joking, I promise.) He hits both free throws to tie it.
6:17 - George Hill has a wide open corner three rim out, but the Heat can't get the rebound. This is intense, folks.
6:04 - There we go Lance! There's the lead!
5:01 - Yes, Lance! You don't always know what to expect out of him, but he generally shines in big spots like these. And . . . what? A technical? For what? That's it for him, though, because of the technical he had earlier with Wade. On replay, it looks like he said something to Wade. That's all I can tell. Damn, that just sucks. That is a huge blow for the Pacers. It sure seems like a weaksauce call.
4:46 - LeBron hits a three, which ties the game. Weak, weak, weak. I hope Lance really said something good.
4:03 - Refs miss a goaltending call. Miami takes it to the other end for a three point play. Missed the free throw, thankfully, but what just happened?
2:44 - Verticality, bitch.
2:00 - Hey, Evan Turner did something good! And Wade is hurting. Two good things?
2:00 - During the time out to get Wade out of the game, Michael Grady informed everybody via Twitter that a fight broke out in the stands. In section one, even, the expensive seats. Is there any question this is the best rivalry in basketball today?
1:47 - Chalmers dribbles into a completely stationary David West and goes right out of bounds. Pacer ball. Don't know what Chalmers was thinking.
1:30 - And Turner gives us the lead! I'm sorry for everything I said earlier! (Although I still miss Danny.)
50.2 - David West for three out of a time out! OH MY GOD! WHAT IS HAPPENING! WAS THAT DESIGNED? WHAT IS HAPPENING?
2.9 - Bosh hits a three to make it a one point game again. 84-83. But, yeah, only 2.9 seconds left. My mind is still just blown over the D-West three. I'm just shaking my head and smiling. Basketball is funny sometimes.
2.3 - George Hill goes to the line, misses the first. Crap. Misses the second. Oh no. Oh no. Miami rebound and time out. Why did I let myself think this game was iced?
0:00 - Bosh's shot is short! Pacers win! Pacers win! Pacers win!
Not tonight! Pacers win! We'll break it down tomorrow, let's just enjoy tonight!
David West for three. Wow. Not in my wildest dreams.