(Sports Network) - The Miami Heat are just one win away from dispatching the
Indiana Pacers and advancing to the NBA Finals, but Game 6 will be in hostile
territory for the defending champs.
The Eastern Conference finals return to Bankers Life Fieldhouse Saturday
night. The Pacers are 7-1 at home this postseason, but the Heat knocked off
Indiana in Game 3 and are 5-1 on the road during these playoffs.
"It's tough to win a playoff game, period. I think the closeout game is always
the toughest," said NBA MVP LeBron James. "You add you're on the road, you're
out of your comfort, and it makes it a little tougher. But for us it's a
challenge. It's another challenge that we thrive on and we like, and we'll
just try to take advantage of it."
James was flat-out amazing in Thursday's second half of Game 5. With the
Pacers up four at the half, James was seen giving a rousing speech to his
team. He backed up his words with 16 points in the decisive third quarter,
which the Heat won 30-13, en route to a 90-79 victory.
"I kind of just went back to my Cleveland days at that point and just said,
'Hey, let's try to make more plays and be more of a scoring threat as well,'"
James said after the game.
He finished with a game-high 30 points, eight rebounds and six assists.
James had to do more, thanks in large part to the ineffective play of his
fellow members of the Big Three.
Dwyane Wade, hobbled by knee problems, scored 10 points and only took eight
"I have to come in and I have to do what I can every day and every night to
help my team win," Wade said on Friday. "The little things throughout the game
- defensively at times, rebound, timely baskets, timely opportunities. That's
what I've been doing. That's what I continue to do."
Chris Bosh, who has been consistently outplayed by Indiana's Roy Hibbert
throughout this series, managed seven points and five rebounds.
On Saturday, the Heat will be without one of its key bench players as Chris
Andersen, aka "The Birdman", was suspended for Game 6. He instigated an
incident in Game 5 with Indiana's Tyler Hansbrough and shoved Hansbrough after
the two went face-to-face.
The Pacers played very well until the third quarter. They couldn't stop James
and couldn't score.
One problem for the Pacers in the second half was that they couldn't get
Hibbert in the mix. Hibbert had 14 points over the first 24 minutes, then only
eight in the final 24.
"We got a little out of sync in the second half, no question about it," said
Indiana head coach Frank Vogel. "Was trying to get our guards involved and
trying to keep Paul George in the pick-and-rolls. The ball didn't find him.
They did a good job."
George finished with 27 points and 11 rebounds, while David West netted 17
The starting backcourt of George Hill and Lance Stephenson was dreadful on
Thursday. Hill had one point, four assists and three turnovers, while
Stephenson, who scored 20 points in Indiana's Game 4 win, finished with four
Despite the poor performance of his backcourt, and the fact that James was
unstoppable in the third quarter, Vogel is confident.
"Understanding we didn't play to our best, which I believe, with our backs
against the wall, we will, and being back at home," Vogel said when asked why
he's "bullish" on forcing a Game 7. "It's not everything, but it's a small
factor. Really, the backs-against-the-wall mentality and a clear-as-day
blueprint of all the things that I know we can do better. I know with a fact
that we can do better."
If they do, Game 7 will be Monday night back in Miami.
If the Heat prevail, Game 1 of the NBA Finals will be in South Beach on
Thursday against the San Antonio Spurs.
The Sports Network