INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The open looks Udonis Haslem and Chris Bosh took advantage of to help the Heat win Game 3 disappeared in Game 4, and so has Miami’s lead over Indiana in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Miami’s Erik Spoelstra won the coaching battle with the Pacers’ Frank Vogel in Game 3, using mobile post players Haslem and Bosh primarily as jump shooters to keep them away from the bigger, brawnier Roy Hibbert and David West.
Vogel countered Tuesday night with a simple adjustment: putting Hibbert and West in better position to step out and contest shots without sacrificing rebounding. And it worked, eliminating Miami’s normally excellent floor spacing and making the Heat’s offense appear unsettled.
Hibbert finished with 23 points and 12 rebounds to lead Indiana to a 99-92 victory that tied the series at two games apiece and helped the Pacers regain a little swagger heading into a pivotal Game 5 on Thursday night in Miami.
In Game 3, Haslem and Bosh combined to make 14 of 19 shots and score 32 points, mostly on jumpers. This time, they were 4 for 11 and combined for 13 points.
“We were a lot more attentive to it,” West said. “We had our antennas up. We didn’t allow them to space. We were there on catch a lot of times. That’s more of us just being locked in. We were just ourselves tonight.”
The Heat shot 39 percent and never found a consistent rhythm.
Indiana also re-established its dominance inside. The Pacers shot 50 percent, outrebounded the Heat 49-30 and outscored them 50-32 in the paint. They relentlessly attacked the basket, continually won the battle for loose balls, dominated the glass and turned the tables on Miami yet again.
Lance Stephenson added 20 points for the Pacers, who closed with a 16-6 run to pull away from the defending NBA champions.
“We’re never going to give up. We’re relentless,” Hibbert said after another big game. “All those guys in there, they believe we can win. No matter what all the analysts or whoever says anything, they count us out, those guys in the locker room were ready to play and we went out and played our hearts out.”
Hibbert will get no argument from Vogel, who challenged his team to bring it or go down swinging — and Indiana scored with punch after punch.
The Pacers revved up the crowd with an opening 11-0 run, got the Heat in foul trouble and answered every challenge Miami posed in a physical game that had bodies flying, tempers flaring and James stunned after fouling out of a playoff game for only the second time in his career.
Indiana believed this was the only way it could get back into the best-of-seven series after giving home-court advantage back to Miami two nights earlier.
The players promised to treat Game 4 as if they were playing a decisive seventh game, and it showed.
An angry Paul George uncharacteristically smacked the floor after being called for a foul in the third quarter, leading to a technical foul on Vogel that seemed to get Indiana refocused. The defense continually contested shots by James and his high-scoring teammates. The four-time MVP finished with 24 points but was only 8 of 18 from the field.