INDIANAPOLIS – Though the arena was made to resemble checkers, it was actually a game of chess for the host team.
After two impressive performances against the defending champions on the road to start the Eastern Conference Finals-in which they earned a split against the Heat in Miami-the Pacers looked to deliver a potential “Check Mate” with a pair of games at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
With Games Three and Four at home-where Indiana has won six-straight in the playoffs-Frank Vogel’s team had an opportunity to put themselves in prime position to advance to the NBA Finals with a pair of wins.
Yet for 48 minutes on Sunday night, the game of Chess on the floor was controlled by the defending NBA Champions-and their pieces were in all the right places.
Aided by solid shooting from the field Miami came into Indianapolis and ripped the lead in the Eastern Conference Finals right from the Pacers in a 114-96 victory Sunday night. The Heat now have a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series and can try to seize control with a win Tuesday night in Game Four.
LeBron James led a balance Heat attack with 22 points as all five Miami starters went for double digits and shot 54.5 percent from the floor for the contest. David West led the Pacers with 21 points while Roy Hibbert added 20 but Paul George-a major factor in the two Miami games-was held to 13.
Despite a noisy gallery in the Pacers favor the Heat were unfazed from the field in the first half, which offensively was one of their best of the playoffs. Over 24 minutes the Heat shot 62.8 percent from the floor and built their lead in the second quarter after leading by four after 12 minutes.
James’ driving bucket with a second left in the half built Miami’s lead to 14 as the Heat put up 70 points in the first half.
Indiana appeared ready to make a run early in the second half when a Roy Hibbert bucket-and-foul with 5:45 to go cut the Miami lead down to seven. But the comeback was short-lived as the Heat went on a 13-5 run to end the quarter and jump out to a 91-76 lead after three.
Miami never looked back. Another three-pointer by Allen 2:26 into the fourth quarter pushed the lead to 21-and helped Miami make their “Check Mate” move for this night.