INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana is done talking about home-court advantage.
The top-seeded Pacers are ready to use it against the two-time defending champs.
They took the first step Sunday, when Paul George finished with 24 points and seven assists, David West added 19 points and seven rebounds, and Indiana led wire-to-wire in a 107-96 victory over the Miami Heat in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.
This is just a fun matchup, George said. It’s one that we’ve been waiting for all year.
For the first time in this year’s playoffs, the Pacers won a series opener. And for the first time in their last three playoff battles against the Heat, the Pacers won Game 1. Game 2 is Tuesday night. The home team has won all five games in this season’s fiercest and most competitive rivalry, though none was more impressive or important than this one.
All five Indiana starters and backup C.J. Watson scored in double figures, helping Indiana produce its highest point total of the playoffs.
The Pacers limited the Heat to just four offensive rebounds and 6-of-23 shooting from beyond the arc. LeBron James went 1 of 5 on 3s and shot just two free throws.
Sure, opening this best-of-seven series at Bankers Life Fieldhouse helped. The hometown crowd that sometimes booed the Pacers during the first two rounds chanted De-fense every time it looked as if the Heat might come back and finished the game chanting Beat The Heat!
But the biggest difference was on the court.
Indiana shared the ball, limited its turnovers, maintained its poise and got contributions from everyone in a game it had to win. Roy Hibbert finished with 19 points and nine rebounds, Lance Stephenson had 17 points and eight assists, and George Hill added 15 points as the Pacers looked more like the team that was so dominant over the first half of the season.
There’s nothing to celebrate. It’s not like we won a championship. It’s one game, Hill said. Yes, it was good, but if we come out and lay an egg on Tuesday, this game doesn’t mean anything.
James, who had 25 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, and Dwyane Wade, who had 27 points on 12-of-18 shooting, desperately tried to rally the Heat but got little help. Chris Bosh had nine points and two rebounds. Ray Allen finished with 12 points.
The game’s still so fresh. It’s too hard to just say, Well, we need to do this better in Game 2,’ James said after the Heat lost for just the second time in 10 playoff games. We need to evaluate our mistakes and things we did in Game 1 first before I can say what we need to bring to Game 2.
James and Wade rallied the Heat within 83-74 early in the fourth, but the Pacers opened it up again to 102-84 with 4:11 to go.
Now comes the hard part – doing it all over again Tuesday night.
We’ve been complacent many times. We just can’t get complacent, George said. We’ve got to stay humbled off this win and come in with the same mind-set that we have to get another one.