INDIANAPOLIS – Oddly enough, home court advantage seemed like a slight liability for the Pacers on Sunday afternoon.
After all, the team hosted a Game 1 in their first two series of the 2014 NBA Playoffs and met defeat each time. So facing the Miami Heat in the opener of the Eastern Conference Finals at home–where the Pacers are 3-4 in the postseason–might not have seemed like a recipe for success.
But finally the Pacers found their road urgency in the golden confines of Bankers Life Fieldhouse as they controlled the tempo for a Game 1 107-96 victory Sunday afternoon. The Pacers have a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series and will try to go up by two games on Tuesday night at the Fieldhouse at 8:30 p.m.
A balanced Pacers attack saw all five starters in double figures in points led by Paul George’s 24 and David West’s 19. Miami had trouble with the Indiana defense all game long as they were out-rebounded by the Pacers 38-29 and were only able to put two players in double digits.
Dwayne Wade had 27 points and Lebron James had 25, but only one other player was in double figures. Because of that the Pacers won the first game of a playoff series for the first time since the 2013 Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
Preaching the need to be aggressive during the practices leading up to the start of the Heat series, the Pacers put their words to action in the opening minutes as they took a quick 7-0 lead. It’s one they would hold thorough the first quarter and then expand for the rest of the half.
With their defense keeping the Heat’s offense at a standstill, the Pacers held the lead for the entire quarter and took a ten-point lead into halftime.
The same scenario played out in the third quarter when Indiana enjoyed one of their better performances of the postseason. Once again the defense was stingy and the offense capitalized as the Pacers took as much as an 18-point lead when Lance Stephenson knocked down a three with 6:09 to go in the quarter.
Miami would make hints at a run late in the third and the fourth quarter, but the Pacers were able to withstand every run to take a rare 1-0 lead in a playoff series in 2014.