Pacers even series with Heat 2-2
Wildly inconsistent officiating:
Both teams can certainly make legitimate claims to being victimized by terrible calls down the stretch, though the Pacers suffered the short end of the stick from the officials' calls throughout the majority of the game and even down the stretch. Questionable fouls at several points that curtailed Pacers' runs and allowed the Heat second chances, a key missed shot clock call followed immediately by two questionable fouls that cut a potential eleven point lead to a seven point lead, and a late out of bounds possession that was missed even after the replay are just a few of the more blatant miscues that occurred at key moments.
On the other side of the ball, the Heat can certainly be upset about a questionable travelling call on Wade in the final minute, and LeBron James fouling out just seconds before that on a tough call (though at any other point in the game, James' pick is a foul, just not in that situation).
Tim Legler essentially agreed with this as he claimed that the majority of the fifty-fifty calls went to the Heat throughout the game. He also pointed out some of the blatantly bad calls that went against both the Pacers and the Heat. I agree with his overall conclusion, in that overall, when you wade through all of the muck that the officials created, the Pacers played the better game and it was fitting that they ended up winning the game.
All of a sudden, players on the Pacers are being talked about and "discovered." Though they were the second best team in the Eastern Conference for much of the season, they have largely been ignored by the media until they played the Knicks last series. Now, people are beginning to notice some of the individuals on that roster and realize that it is no fluke that the Pacers are in this position.
Roy Hibbert of the Pacers has arguably been the best player this series, and he was certainly the best player in last night's game. He poured in 23 points and had 12 big rebounds for the Pacers. He is bringing back the "old school" center style of play with rebounding, a variety of post moves and jump hooks, and protecting the rim on the defensive end. His contributions have thrown off the Heat, with their smaller line-up.
Lance Stephenson of the Pacers is a new favorite for analysts. He is the "wild card" for the Pacers. He pushes the ball with reckless abandon and isn't afraid to match-up and challenge LeBron James when Paul George needs an occasional break even though he gives up quite a bit of size. He gives the Pacers added toughness and also puts a lot of pressure on the Heat defense with his up-tempo fast break mentality.
Paul George and David West were two of the only Pacers who received some fleeting coverage throughout the year. They have both played well in the series, though George's offensive production has suffered slightly since he has spent the bulk of his energy on defending LeBron James. George Hill for the Pacers has also been a solid contributor throughout the series, especially in the Pacers' wins.
In the two games that the Heat have won, they have had huge contributions from key role players, specifically Chris "The Birdman" Andersen and Udonis Haslem. That didn't happen in this particular game as The Birdman didn't even attempt a shot and Haslem had just six points. Mario Chalmers contributed more than usual as he gave the Heat 20 points. Ray Allen finally scored some points for the Heat and somehow was the leading rebounder, though his shooting percentage is still low by his standards. Bosh was a phantom as he neither scored nor rebounded the basketball in any substantial way.
LeBron's performance was less than exceptional. He was not the best player on the court, and hasn't been the best player in the series up to this point. He did hit a couple of clutch threes that kept the Heat alive late, but it wasn't enough. His early dismissal on a questionable foul call was tough, but even before that, he was pedestrian.
D Wade as a flopper and "dirty player":
In an article that came out and was discussed ad nauseum all day leading up the game, CBS sportswriter Gregg Doyel made the claim that Dwyane Wade was a dirty player and a flopper. He outlined several cheap shots and dirty plays that Wade has taken in just the last couple of seasons ending with a forearm shot to Lance Stephenson's head in Game 2. The number of instances that Doyel points out just in recent history (both dirty plays leading to injuries and flops) helps to make his case compelling, but he went a step further and claimed that the NBA consciously tried to make sure the Heat stayed in control of the series by deciding not to suspend Wade after the elbow to Stephenson. I'm not sure about the larger conspiracy, but I do think that any player not named Dwyane Wade or LeBron James would have been suspended for an elbow to the head. Regardless, it was clear that the Indiana fans were well aware of this as they chanted "he's a flopper!" while Wade shot free throws in the fourth quarter.
ESPN and other analysts' coverage:
Remember when the entire ESPN network of analysts watched the Spurs sweep the Grizzlies and then mistakenly believe that it was the Heat who had just won that series? You know, right after the Spurs advanced everyone was already asking "How will the Spurs match up against the Heat?". Well, I guess that they had forgotten that the Heat were still entrenched in a series in which they very well could have been down 2-1, against a team who presents a variety of match-up problems, who beat them in the regular season series, and who wasn't going to back down to the reigning champs. Now, all of a sudden, the storyline changes to "How much trouble are the Heat in?". The knee-jerk reactionary coverage is almost as wild and inconsistent as the officiating during last night's game.
With the series even at two games apiece, the series now becomes a best of three affair. Game five will be in Miami, so the Heat will have the home court advantage. The Pacers have controlled three of the four games and have forced their style of play on the Heat team. If they can continue to pound the ball inside, dominate the glass, and hold LeBron and Wade within reason, they have to feel pretty good about their chances at stealing game five and putting themselves in a great position for the overall series. That said, the Heat still have the best player in the land, and have the potential to go off offensively at any moment in time. It will be a fun series to continue watching.