Heat’s Defense Helps Spark Series Victory
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – It almost was a game of anything you can do I can do better between the Miami Heat’s best two players, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, during the closeout game of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Just days after LeBron lit up the Pacers for 40 points in Game 4, Wade one upped him in Game 6 by dropping 41 points and grabbing 10 rebounds against Indiana. Wade’s trouble started after Game 2 when his knee was drained. He played his worst playoff game in Game 3 and then exploded for the rest of the series.
But the story of the series was not as much about the Heat’s offense as it was the Heat’s completely stifling defense. Pacers power forward David West couldn’t get going throughout the series while he was being harassed by Shane Battier and saw double-teams.
Miami’s athletic advantage showed throughout as Joel Anthony and other players closed passing lanes before the Pacers big men could even see them. Despite having a massive size advantage in the middle with West and center Roy Hibbert, the duo couldn’t do anything against the Heat after Game 3.
In the final game, West and Hibbert shot well, but managed only 36 points and 13 rebounds. For comparison purposes, Wade and James scored 69 points and pulled down 16 rebounds while dishing out 10 assists and committing just six turnovers between them.
Over the course of the series, the Heat held the Pacers to nearly 10 points less than they averaged in the regular season and also cut their shooting percentage, rebounds, and assists levels from the regular season averages.
Still, Wade and James couldn’t do it alone, at least for a full game. In Games 4 and 5 Shane Battier and Mario Chalmers stepped up with big games to help out and in Game 5, Chalmers and Mike Miller combined for 27 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists.
Joel Anthony, who will never be mistaken for a scorer, helped by contributing key points throughout the series when LeBron or Wade would drive into the lane and draw the Pacers’ big men.
When the Heat needed it most, the entire team followed the lead of Wade and James. Miami shot 53.9 percent in Game 6 and was 80 percent from the free throw line, a place that had been trouble for Miami in the first two rounds.
For the series, Miami shot 46 percent from the field, but Indiana’s defense frustrated the Heat in Game 3 and part of Game 4. Miami averaged 4 points less per game and 5 assists less per game than they did during the regular season. Additionally, Miami only managed to shoot 29 percent from behind the arc.
LeBron averaged 30 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 assists per game in the series. Wade contributed 26.2 points and five rebounds per game. The Heat’s next leading scorer was Mario Chalmers who averaged just a little less than 11 points per game.
Up next for the Heat will be the winner of Saturday night’s Game 7 between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Boston Celtics. Miami has dominated Philadelphia this season, but struggled mightily against the Celtics.
If Miami can get to the NBA Finals, it will face the winner of the Western Conference Finals between San Antonio and Oklahoma City.