Heat vs. Pacers
Game 3 Preview
For the first time in this year’s NBA playoffs, the Miami Heat appear to be mortal heading into Game 3 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Indiana Pacers on Thursday. The second-seeded Heat (-1) are beginning to miss power forward Chris Bosh, who is out indefinitely with an abdominal strain and has even played center at times for his team this season.
The third-seeded Pacers stunned Miami 78-75 in Game 2 on Tuesday and now head home hoping their fans can give them another boost as they try to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2004. They finally used their size inside as an advantage to overpower the smaller Heat, outrebounding them 50-40 as a team with three starters totaling 10 or more boards.
Miami star LeBron James even was quoted as saying “it’s a lot more taxing” to fill in for Bosh at power forward, where he has seen more time lately rather than playing primarily outside. Ironically, the biggest knock on James in last year’s NBA Finals was that he did not take the ball inside enough, so he reportedly worked hard on enhancing his post Game in the offseason. Heat fans and bettors are still waiting to see the fruits of his labor in key situations like this.
Indiana’s ability to expose Miami inside will continue to play out throughout this series and could very well be the difference in terms of who wins. Pacers leading scorer Danny Granger also has yet to break through, as he has made just 6 of 24 shots through the first two Games for a total of 18 points after averaging 21.4 in the first round against the sixth-seeded Orlando Magic.
Thursday’s Western Conference matchup has the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs (-11) as double-digit home favorites against the fifth-seeded Los Angeles Clippers for the second time in as many Games. The Spurs easily handled the Clippers in Game 1 on Tuesday, 108-92.
Both point guard struggled offensively, as LA’s Chris Paul scored only six points on 3 of 13 shooting from the field and San Antonio’s Tony Parker totaled just seven on 1 of 9 shots. Paul continues to be bothered by a strained hip while teammate Blake Griffin (15 points, nine rebounds in Game 1) is dealing with a sprained knee. Griffin’s counterpart for the Spurs, Tim Duncan, scored a Game-high 26 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the winning effort.