Sweating in Miami
Remember game 2 of the series between the Pacers & Heat? The Pacers managed to get out of Miami stealing a win on the Heat's homecourt & they were amped about it. The Heat players were none too pleased by Indiana's reaction to the win & thought their celebration was too over the top. So you gotta bet that the next game, the Heat would be ready to embarrass the Pacers for such a thing, the motivation had to be through the roof. Uhh...I guess not. The Pacers gave the Heat the biggest beat down they've seen all year long & it was in the biggest game (until the next game) of the year.
The game started off according to script. Another low scoring game with some physicality. The Pacers came out red hot to open the game as Roy Hibbert managed to completely embarrass Erik Spoelstra's new starting center, Dexter Pittman. The Pacers went on an 11-2 run to open the game in front of their golden crowd & were flying high. Unfortunately for them, LeBron James led the Chris Bosh-less Heat on an impressive run of their own, managing to outscore the Pacers 24-6 to end the quarter & take a 26-17 lead at the end of 1. The first quarter was a tale of 2 runs, the Pacers made theirs while the Heat did as well. James was playing fantastic & carrying his team along with, not Dwyane Wade, but rather, Mario Chalmers. Wade struggled mightily from the field. The 2nd quarter was the same story, but played by opposite roles. The Heat watched their 9 point lead diminish as Indiana went ahead & outscored them 26-17 in the 2nd to lead to a 43-43 tie at halftime. The Heat had to feel okay, considering they were on the road, LeBron had played great with 16 first half points & despite Wade having an atrocious game so far, they were still very much in it.
It seemed as though, once the 3rd quarter began, the Pacers decided to stop messing around with the Heat. Indiana dominated the 3rd quarter in every aspect, their defense holding Miami's electric offense to a measly 12 points. Wade continued to struggle as LeBron stopped dominating. The Heat's best player on the floor was Mario Chalmers, which doesn't bode well for them. The Pacers spread the ball around, the major standout being their 7'2 center, Roy Hibbert who finished the game with 19 points, 18 rebounds, & 5 blocks. There is not a soul on this Miami team that can dream of stopping him, Roy is setting himself for quite a hefty contract whenever these playoffs end for him. The loss of Chris Bosh is such a crushing blow for Miami, not only for his ability to be the best 3rd option in the NBA, something that would have been vital for this team in game 3, seeing as how much Wade struggled, but also for his ability to at least be a big body down low. No Bosh means LeBron has to play out of position as a power forward & you can tell it is exhausting LeBron. He just doesn't have as much energy in this series as he normally does. Danny Granger, whose main objective this series is to guard LeBron (which he did & got in his face for the 3rd consecutive game) got hot, he finished with 17 points & David West, their emotional leader on the floor who got face to face with Mario Chalmers at one point, finished with 14 points. Their starting PG, someone Larry Bird brought over from San Antonio in the offseason, George Hill, was the one who really shut the door on any idea of a Heat comeback in the 2nd half. He finished with a team leading 20 points, including 3-4 from 3 point land. The Pacers bullied the Heat in the 2nd half & were clearly the better team, walking away celebrating a 94-75 victory.
LeBron had a very pedestrian game, finishing with 22 points (only 6 in the 2nd half), 6 rebounds, & 3 assists. Dwyane Wade had his worst game, possibly ever, with 5 points & only 1 assist, compared to 5 turnovers. The boiling point came in the 3rd quarter after another missed Wade shot led to an Indiana fast break and easy bucket. Wade didn't hustle back on defense & coach Erik Spoelstra called a timeout & basically told Wade to sit his ass on the bench. Well, Dwyane being the emotional prima donna that he is, did not approve of his coach telling him what to do (even though that's his job) and could be seen verbally sparing with Spoelstra. He had to be calmed down by Udonis Haslem & Juwan Howard. I know what you're thinking; yes, Juwan is still in the league. Wade was 2-13 from the field & had a whopping -25 rating. Mario Chalmers seemed to be the only one who really wanted to play the entire game, because he ended up with a game high 25 points with 6 rebounds & 5 assists.
So what's next? Game 4 takes place on Indiana's floor, so no party atmosphere for Miami to lift them. When there's two minutes left in the quarter, they won't hear the ear cringingly annoying "2 MINUTES...DOS!!!!" Indiana is a basketball crowd, not a party waiting to happen that just so happens to catch a couple moments of the game in front of them. The Heat need to come out and prove that they are the better team that every single expert chose to win, including ESPN analyst & former NBA player, Jon Barry, who even said the Heat would sweep. I swear, I look at some of these predictions & think to myself how it would be so awesome to be a sports columnist. You make awful predictions, you're basically the weather man, you can suck at your job but somehow continue to keep doing it. Seems nice.
And This Happened...
Spurs dominate Clippers to take a 2-0 lead - It seems as though the Spurs are bored. The 76ers/Celtics are battling, teams trading blows. The Lakers/Thunder came off an impressive game 2 that the Thunder just barely squeaked out a win. The Heat/Pacers are playing gritty basketball where defense is dominating. Spurs/Clippers? Well, the Spurs have outscored the Clippers 213-180 in the 2 games & blown them out at both games in San Antonio. The Clippers are a young team making their first playoff run as a core against the top team in their conference, this is pretty understandable. Guys like Nick Young & Blake Griffin have never been a part of something this big. They'll most likely get swept, possibly steal one game at home, but the Spurs are the smarter, more talented, more disciplined, & just plain better team. The Clippers headline is the fact that they knocked off the Grizzlies in round 1, managing to win game 7 on the road. This is just the old man taking the smart ass teenager out back & smacking him a few times.
Kings beat Coyotes, 1 win away from getting to Stanley Cup finals - For the first time in the Western Conference, the Phoenix Coyotes actually had a lead. Daymond Langkow scored on a breakaway goal, managing to get one past the brick wall known as Jonathan Quick. The Kings proved that despite the fact they were an 8 seed, this team is ready to play for that Stanley Cup. Just a little bit over 2 minutes later, Anze Kopitar had a breakaway goal of his own & tied the game, snatching away any momentum Phoenix may have had. Early in the 3rd period, Dwight King got the go ahead & game winning goal, putting his team up for the first time in the game. The Kings are just 1 game away from a sweep & playing for the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1993. Los Angeles has never won a Stanley Cup before.
Kerry Wood announces retirement - Chicago Cubs relief pitcher & former rookie phenom, Kerry Wood, has announced his retirement. Wood, who started off his MLB career with a bang, by winning the Rookie of the Year & having a 20 strikeout game in 1998, struggled with injuries throughout his career. They really hindered his ability to flourish into a Cy Young capable pitcher that he seemed to be. He helped lead the Cubs to the NLCS & just 4 outs away from the World Series in 2003, the same year he led the National League in strikeouts. He was a 2 time all-star & spent 2 years away from Chicago in 2009 & 2010 in Cleveland & New York for the Yankees. He had been having an atrocious year so far in 2012 out of the Cubs bullpen with an 8.64 ERA & only 5 strikeouts in 8.1 innings. This Cubs team is a young one going through growing pains, Woody was just taking up a roster spot at this point. Kudos to him for realizing he doesn't have it anymore & giving up his spot to a younger player who could become accumulated with the majors.
Pivotal NBA playoff games tonight - A desperate Los Angeles Lakers team is going to host the Oklahoma City Thunder tonight as they face a must-win game. Being down 2-0 & the fact that no team has ever came back in the NBA from a 3-0 deficit means that the season rests on the shoulders of this game. Can Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, & Andrew Bynum slow down Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, & James Harden? Uh, probably not. Thunder go up 3-0 I bet. The Celtics are in the driver's seat for their series against Philadelphia after their convincing & dominating game 3 victory, putting them up 2-1. I'll be interested to see if their big 3 of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, & Rajon Rondo play as spectacularly as they did in the last game. If they do, Philadelphia doesn't have a prayer.