Reporting Tim Kephart
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Normally a buzzer-beating loss to a team that you beat for much of the game would demoralize most squads. But the Indiana Pacers say they’re even more confident heading into Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals despite being down 1-0 in the series to the Miami Heat.
“Our belief has strengthened,” said Pacers head coach Frank Vogel.
The Pacers head coach has battled undue criticism for his substitutions at the end of Game 1 when he left center Roy Hibbert on the bench. Heat star LeBron James beat Paul George on the dribble and hit an easy left-handed layup to seal the victory.
Still, Vogel has handled the situation well and his team seems to be completely unified around him.
“Very encouraged,” Vogel said. “Our belief in our ability to beat this team has strengthened after Game 1. Our familiarity in the playoffs, in the playoff series grows with each day, grows with each game, and there’s a lot of things we can definitely do better.”
On the other hand, there’s quite a lot the Heat can do better as well. For one, the Heat can work to not turn the ball over 20 times, while also taking more advantage of the turnover-prone Pacers. Miami can also shoot better than around 65 percent from the free throw line as well.
Plus, if the Heat’s shooters like Ray Allen and Shane Battier can finally find their shot in these playoffs, the game could get broken open quickly.
“We’re going to play a lot better,” Heat center Chris Bosh said after film and on-court work Thursday. “We’ve come to expect that of ourselves. We know that yesterday wasn’t the championship effort that we need in order to win the series, let alone win the finals. We’re going to have to do a much better job on defense and on offense to take care of the basketball, do a better job on the boards, do a better job of containing some of their actions.”
Allen, Battier, and Norris Cole combined to shoot 2 for 16 in Game 1 and even though the Heat won the game, they know the series is going to be a battle to the end.
“We can get better,” James said. “I think both teams didn’t play to the level that they’re capable of playing at in Game 1. But both teams had a chance to win.”
The Heat usually have more than a chance to win. They’re now 46-3 in their last 49 games, and 28-0 when Andersen grabs at least four rebounds. Still, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was pleading for more.
“We have to push to get to another level,” Spoelstra said. “It was a very competitive game. Both teams were laying it all out there but we’re trying to push to another level that we think we can get to — and we’ll need to in this series.
“We have to continue to push forward and evolve. … We have to play better in this series. In order to be able to win this series, we have to get to another level,” Spoelstra said.
Miami starting point guard Mario Chalmers said he’s still dealing with a bruised left shoulder but expects to play in Game 2. Chalmers left in the third quarter on Wednesday after running into a hard screen set by Hibbert, though Spoelstra said he could have returned to the lineup if necessary.
However, if Cole can cut down on his turnovers, Chalmers might have to accept a role coming off the bench in the near future.
Friday’s night game is set for an 8:30 p.m. tipoff at the AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami.
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