NBA – The Indiana Pacers preserved their homecourt advantage in their Eastern Conference Finals series against the Miami Heat after their 107-96 Game-1 victory. Indiana matched their Playoff-high of 23 assists and went on the offensive to outgun Miami from start to finish. Their 30 first-quarter points showed they meant business and forced Miami to play catch-up early on.
Miami’s small-ball lineup was at a clear disadvantage when it came to rebounding. Indiana pulled down 38 boards for the game compared to Miami’s 29. They also won the key big-man match-up between Roy Hibbert (photo above) and the Heat’s Chris Bosh. Hibbert scored 19 points while grabbing 9 rebounds. Bosh on the other hand, was invisible with 9 points and two boards.
The Heat also did a poor job in shutting down the Pacers’ outside game. Miami’s lackluster perimeter defense allowed Indiana make 8 of 19 shots (42.1%) from three-point land. The Pacers and their superior defensive advantage were able to keep Miami’s “Big Three” of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in check for most of the game.
Paul George led five other Pacers in double figures with 24 points, four rebounds and seven assists. Indiana’s starting frontcourt duo of Roy Hibbert and David West each scored 19, while Lance Stephenson and George Hill added 17 and 15, respectively.
Dwayne Wade led the Heat’s scoring effort with a game-high 27 points. LeBron James finished with a double-double, scoring 25 points while grabbing 10 rebounds and dishing out five assists. They were the only Heat starters to crack double figures in scoring. Defensive specialist, Chris Andersen was an unlikely contributor off the bench with 14 points to his name, while veteran sharpshooter Ray Allen delivered 12 points of his own.
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Indiana was criticized for fading late in the regular season and even received with boos at times at home during the earlier rounds of the Playoffs. Now that their facing their nemesis and the fate of their hopes for a championship berth is on the line, they’ve stepped up and reminded everyone why they’ve always been considered the “Heat Killers” in the East. Now the pressure is on Miami to steal Game 2 on Tuesday in Indiana.