Miami, FL - The Indiana Pacers failed to regain home court advantage in Miami with a 99-87 loss to the Miami Heat in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Indiana got off to an incredibly fast start, leading by 17-4 in the first quarter, but were unable to keep up the strong play for the rest of the game. Miami took advantage of 17 Indiana turnovers, and ended up beating the Pacers by 16 points in the second half.
Paul George led the way for the Pacers with 17 points, but shot just 5-13 from the field. He played strong basketball to begin the third quarter, but was unable to take over down the stretch when the Pacers cut the Heat lead to two in the fourth quarter. Roy Hibbert had a solid game for the Pacers with 16 points, but only grabbed two rebounds on the night in 36 minutes. David West and Lance Stephenson were the only other double digit scorers for the Pacers with 13 and 10 respectively, with Stephenson grabbing 11 rebounds to finish off a double-double.
The Heat were led by a big game from LeBron James with 26 points on 9-14 shooting, and he took over the game when the Heat needed him most. Dwyane Wade chipped in with his usual consistent game, scoring 23 points on 9-16 shooting, and was once again unstoppable from mid-range. Ray Allen came off the bench to be the only other Heat player in double figures, scoring 16 points, while nailing 4-4 from behind the three-point arc.
If the Pacers want to take Game 4 down in Miami, they are going to need to improve their defense and turnovers. Their offense was good enough to take a win, but they can’t afford to give the Heat easy points on fast breaks and in the paint off of second chance points. They showed the type of energy to blow Miami out in the early parts of the game, but they were unable to find the killer instinct that they will need against the two-time defending champions.
Overall, the stage has been set for a must-win Game 4 for the Pacers. They cannot afford to go back to Indianapolis in Game 5 with a 3-1 deficit. The series could very well be decided in Game 4 by the Heat, and the Pacers will have to come out with an energy that they haven’t shown thus far in the playoffs.