Reporting Tim Kephart
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Miami Heat came into Game 5 looking to make a statement that they were still the team to beat in the Eastern Conference. By the end of Game 5, that statement was sent loud and clear.
While LeBron James and Dwyane Wade got their points, 30 and 28 respectively; the Heat’s victory was a total team effort. Shane Battier and Udonis Haslem both went for double digits in points and Mario Chalmers pulled down 11 key defensive rebounds.
Much of the focus after Game 4’s other-worldly performance by Wade and LeBron was on the Heat’s offense. But in Game 5, it was all about a swarming team defense that kept the Pacers from ever getting into a smooth offensive flow.
In Game 5, the Heat held Indiana to just 33.7 percent shooting, including just 28.6 percent from behind the three-point line. Plus, while the Pacers have a seven-footer under the basket; the Heat pulled down every rebound that came near them Tuesday night.
Miami outrebounded Indiana by a 49-35 margin, but it was on the defensive glass where the contrast was most evident. Miami had 42 defensive rebounds by the time the game ended, while Indiana managed to pull down just 22 defensive rebounds.
The defensive rebounding was key for the Heat because it immediately opened up the team’s unstoppable fast break offense led by Wade and James. For the game, the Heat outscored the Pacers 22-2 in fastbreak points.
But, for all the good the Heat did in Game 5, it was two plays that could come back to haunt the Heat in Game 6 in Indianapolis.
Heat power forward Udonis Haslem, who has just recently found his shot for the Heat, was hit with a flagrant 1 foul after a hard foul on Pacers forward Tyler Hansbrough. Haslem didn’t hit Hansbrough in the face, just barely, but it was a very hard foul after Hansbrough flagrantly fouled Wade earlier in the game.
Another Heat player is pretty much guaranteed to be out. Dexter Pittman threw a tough forearm into the chest of Lance Stephenson that reeked of payback for Stephenson making a “choke” gesture toward LeBron James in Game 3.
Losing Pittman won’t impact the Heat, but if Haslem is lost for Game 6, it will further limit the rotation that worked so well in Game 4 and 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
But things are just as unpredictable on the Pacers sideline as well. Forward Danny Grainger sprained his ankle and missed most of the second half of Game 5. Additionally, power forward David West suffered a sprained knee and missed the second half of the game as well.
After Game 5, which the announcers said was one of the most physical games this postseason; Pacers president Larry Bird called his team soft.
“I can’t believe my team went soft. S-O-F-T. I’m disappointed. I never thought it would happen,” Bird told the Indianapolis Star.
Bird was one of the most competitive players ever and that shot at his team was definitely an attempt to get them fired up for Game 6. On the other side, Miami knows that if they can handle their business in Game 6, it’s off to the Conference finals.
If Miami can make it to the Eastern Conference Finals, it will play the winner of the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers series. The teams play Wednesday night and the Celtics are looking to close out Philadelphia after grabbing a 3-2 series lead on Monday.
In the Western Conference Finals, the top seed San Antonio Spurs are playing the number two seeded Oklahoma City Thunder.
Game 6 between Indiana and Miami will take place Thursday night in Indianapolis.