It may have only been a regular season game in March but it felt more like a Playoff clash in May due to the high intensity and chippy play as the Miami Heat lost 84-83 in a thriller at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Officials did all they could to calm things down, handing out technical fouls left, right and centre but it was to no avail as Lance Stephenson was ultimately ejected for taunting in a game where emotions spilt over, to say the least.
Yet despite the 84-83 loss, maybe that game will actually do the Heat some good in the long run. Maybe a heart breaking loss in such high stakes game is just what is needed to spark some life into an otherwise flat team that has struggled recently, having dropped eight of the last 13 games in a season where they have been searching for something to drive them.
LeBron James was the most aggressive we’ve seen him since dropping 61 points on the Charlotte Bobcats (with the only exception being the 43 point performance vs. Cleveland) and that was the key. He lived at the charity stripe, taking 15 Free-throws (missing only one) and that set the tone for the rest of the team on his way to scoring 38 points against the NBA’s stingiest defense.
Meanwhile the defense that has been missing as of late cranked it up and held Indiana to just 37 percent shooting overall. Granted the Pacers may not be the best offensive team in the league (8th worst offensive unit in the NBA with 97.8 points per game), but it was still refreshing to see the Heat knuckle down on that end of the court.
Moreover, the found a way to deal with Roy Hibbert after he got off to a great start in the first quarter. He set his highest scoring output in the first period this season with 13 points and that prompted Erik Spoelstra to say: “He is catching it too deep and there isn’t any kind of resistance so he is just getting right into his comfort zone.” (Per ESPN’s Israel Gutierez)
Udonis Haslem was called in and he corralled the big fella, holding him to just 8 points on 1-7 shooting the rest of the way. That in addition to forcing David West into a 3-11 shooting night will leave Coach Spoelstra a relatively happy man considering the fact that the duo has two typically feasted on the Heat whenever the teams have met.
But what’s perhaps more impressive is that the Heat, aka the league’s worst rebounding team(36.7) managed to keep pace with the fifth best team (45.2) in the association as both teams finished with 37 boards.
Sure the scoreboard may not be in their favour but there are some positives to take into the rest of the season. The intensity and fight LeBron and Co. showed on both ends of the court is exactly what they will need if there hope to Three-peat and add to their dynasty.