The Indiana Pacers’ 99-92 Game 4 conquest of the defending champion Miami Heat, brought the Eastern Conference Finals series back to square one.
Save for the 55 personal fouls called that marked the physical game, the Heat is expected to come out smoking from the get-go come Game 5 when the series shifts back to South Beach.
Lebron James’ 24 points on 18 shots, six rebounds, five assists and three blocks were not enough after being whistled for his sixth personal foul late in the game. It was an offensive foul infraction, which led to his disqualification, the first time he fouled out this season and the first since last season’s Playoffs.
Unlike Game 3, which saw Miami completely outplay Indiana en route to a 103-86 victory for a 2-1 series lead, Game 4 saw a more mentally prepared Pacers.
Center Roy Hibbert is certainly shaping up to be a top center in the East, firing away 23 points, including seven crucial points for the Pacers in the final three minutes, while hauling down 12 rebounds.
David West, as usual, provided the game-long hustle and intensity to finish with 14 points and 12 rebounds.
The Pacers have never won an NBA title since joining the league in 1976 with the merger of the American Basketball Association with the National Basketball Association.
Indiana, though has won three ABA crowns before the league’s merger with the NBA, during the 1970, 1972 and 1973 seasons.
With a collection of youth and veteran players that are committed to play defense, Indiana, a team that showed no intimidation playing against Miami’s All-star trio of Lebron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, have the tools to upstage the back-to-back NBA title-seeking Heat.
Here are the two most important things I feel the Pacers need to do to accomplish the goal is returning to the NBA Finals since the 2001 season:
- Control the boards- With Hibbert and West manning the paint and controlling the boards en route to a 50-32 rebounding advantage, the Pacers went on to tie the series. The Heat are the underdogs in this department since Bosh is the only legitimate big guy that plays a lot of minutes for the Heat. And that means the rest of the guys, from James, Udonis Haslem and Chris “Birdman” Andersen, need to really help out in clearing the glass.
- Keep the “hungry” attitude- The Pacers won the Central Division crown after winning 49 games this season. And they did that by keeping a hungry attitude, en route to identical 4-2 series conquests over the Atlanta Hawks and the New York Knicks during the first two rounds of the Playoffs.
Will the Pacers pull off the upset against the “Kings” of the NBA?