Pacers upset over effort vs. Heat
by Jeff Zillgitt, USA TODAY Sports
The Indiana Pacers stewed – not in sweat-drenched jerseys and the disappointment of Sunday’s 105-91 loss to the Miami Heat — but in the effort.
Players and coaches can live with losses. They have trouble digesting sub-standard efforts resulting in losses.
The Pacers had difficulty stomaching the notion that the Heat brought the pain, and they had trouble responding.
“We didn’t compete from the opening top,” Pacers forward David West said. “I just don’t think we brought enough competitive fire. … We didn’t compete hard enough. You can’t beat a team like that in their building as well as they’re playing without competing. … I just thought that we didn’t respond to the challenge.”
In a vacuum, it was a tough loss for the Pacers, who beat the Heat twice earlier this season with size and strength. But a microcosm of one game (of 82) does not determine Indiana’s fate.
Sunday’s loss may be what the Pacers a needed – a blaring wake-up call that beating Miami in a seven-game series will require a constant and focused effort. The Heat love to take advantage of letdowns and destroy a team in short order.
“We were on our heels,” West said. “Any time a guy crawls in your space, you’re leaning back They’ve got the power advantage. It’s a position of strength versus a position of weakness. They were in a position of strength against us all night.”
So Indiana knows what it needs to do. Executing it is part of the issue, and as much as West says Indiana didn’t play with fire, there’s no way to tell how much Miami had to do with extinguishing the fire. No doubt, Miami had something to do with it as it won its franchise-best 18 consecutive victory.
Indiana saw at least one strategy Miami will employ if they meet in the playoffs. Just before tip-off, Heat forward LeBron James made a strategic decision. Instead of guarding Paul George, James told Dwyane Wade to guard him, and James elected to guard Lance Stephenson.
It worked. George scored just 10 points on 2-of-11 shooting, and James frustrated Stephenson, who scored just … [For more on Indiana Pacers upset over effort vs. Miami Heat, click here.]