2014 NBA Eastern Conference Finals: Miami Heat rally late to level series 1-1 and claim home court advantage
After the Draft lottery had taken place it was back to the Playoff action for the NBA and having reached the Conference Finals the level of play has not disappointed as we see the top two seeds from either conference battle it out for the a spot in the NBA Finals.
Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat matched up for their Game 2. Here’s a recap:
Indiana Pacers vs Miami Heat (Miami won 87-83, series tied 1-1)
Largely due to weak knees and multiple other minor injuries, Dwyane Wade has avoided at least one of every back-to-back game the Heat have had this season and in the process missed a total 28 games this season, just more than one-third of the total the two time defending champions played. His season averages of 19 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game are not really the level we expect from him but this season has taught him to value his time on the court as his shot selection whatever time of the game has been very thoughtfull, paying full credit to his only career stat of this season, his field goal percentage of 54.5%.
His conditioning actually makes the Miami Heat stronger than weaker despite this being their fourth attempt at an NBA Championship in four seasons and his true worth when fit was shown today in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals down the stretch. He and LeBron James combined for only 23 points through the first three quarters of the game but stepped up to the occasion, scoring 22 of the Heat’s last 25 points and their final 20 to prevent themselves from going down 0-2 in the series, a position they have never been in the Playoffs during the BIG 3 era.
Wade had 23 points with 5 rebounds and 5 assists on 10 of 16 shooting while James had 27 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals and 3 blocks, to carry the Heat back home with the upper hand, having snatched home court advantage from the Pacers, who gave away a lead of 75-72 with five and a half minutes to go.
Highlights from the LeBron and Wade show in the final quarter:
The Pacers could have easily put the Heat in an uncomfortable and unfamiliar position of trailing 2 games to nothing in the series had they kept their nerve through the closing minutes of the game. Instead they let the two best players of the Heat take over and let the game slip away from them with sloppy turnovers on the offensive end and their inability to get stops on the defensive end of the floor.
They had the game in their grasp courtesy of a dominant performance on the offensive board and some good balanced play from their starters for a second consecutive game in this series, this time around led by the all round performance of Lance Stpehenson who registered 25 points, 6 rebounds and 7 assists on 10 of 17 shooting and 2 of 4 from beyond the arc. Roy Hibbert rose to his dominant self on the boards as he notched up his first double-double in exactly two months with 12 points and 13 rebounds (8 offensive).
Meanwhile for the Heat this was a game that they were lucky to have as their two great players stole (on offense and defense) it from the Pacers but finding a way to get the third member of the Big 3, Chris Bosh, out of his struggles is crucial if the Heat are looking to advance further than the Conference Finals. In these two games, when tested, the Heat have not looked the championship team they were the last two years on both ends of the floor.
Chris Andersen playing 26 minutes was a huge impact in the game, despite just 3 points, as he battled with Indiana’s big men in the paint to grab 12 rebounds. Norris Cole, the back up point guard, had a huge role as well unexpectedly playing more minutes guarding Stephenson as part of Spoelstra’s small line-up for much of the fourth quarter. Cole did a great job restricting Stephenson to just one bucket and absolutely no activity in the paint over the course of the final period.