INDIANAPOLIS – Now the pressure is getting a bit serious.
After all the “Gold Swagger” T-Shirts are back in full force after a checker-out for Game Three.
“It’s my favorite theme,” said forward Tyler Hansbrough talking with a sea of gold shirts at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in the background. “It makes the stadium kinda light up.”
Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the Pacers are 3-0 this season when they hand out the gold shirts-and the team really needs a win on Tuesday night to keep their NBA Championship dreams alive.
For the first time this post-season the Pacers trail in a series past the first game after losing Game Three to the Heat 114-96 on Sunday night. Miami buried the Pacers and quieted the sellout crowd-donning blue and white t-shirts for a “Checker-Out”-by shooting nearly 63 percent from the field and scoring 70 points in the first half.
Now the prospect of falling behind 3-1 with a Game Five in Miami is in front of them, with a loss severely decreasing their odds of overtaking the defending champion Heat to reach the NBA Finals for the first time since 2000.
“This is the first time we’ve trailed in a series so I’ve challenged our guys to see how they respond to our first real adversity of the this year’s post-season and I’m looking forward to how they respond,” said head coach Frank Vogel-and typically its been good.
Following losses in the 2013 Postseason the Pacers are 4-1. Their only loss came in Game Four to the Hawks in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, but the team has won four straight since after defeats-including Game Two against the Heat in Miami last Friday.
“We’ve got to maintain our composure,” said forward David West of the team heading into a game this late in a series trailing overall. “You can’t overreact, start forcing things. We just have to maintain our poise and make plays when they are there to be made. We’ve got to come out with the right focus, we have to have a better first half.”
West is stating the obvious there, considering it was the start of Game Three that put the Pacers into this predicament to start off. The team had trouble containing LeBron James inside and the team’s shooters found their range during the half which they made over 60 percent of their shots.
Vogel said the team will have to do more to guard James in the paint-including some doubling and stunting-to try to slow the NBA’s reigning Most Valuable Player down.
“We’ve got to make sure that, again, LeBron is not getting easy looks down on the post,” said Paul George of the team’s defense.
Miami understands the Pacers will make adjustments following their strong offensive performance on Sunday-but the Heat don’t believe they are in anymore control of the series than they were when they went up 1-0 to start off the Eastern Conference Finals.
“Playoffs is hard, no matter is you are up or down, you’ve got to win four games. We understand that,” said James. “We look forward to the opportunity to have another game we can win.”
It’s one the Pacers have to.