The Indiana Pacers, showing the poise and determination Miami were supposed to have, routed the cold-shooting Heat 94-75 on Thursday to take a surprising 2-1 lead in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference semi-final series.
Out West, the San Antonio Spurs continued their dominant ways, defeating the Los Angeles Clippers 105-88 for a 2-0 series lead.
The Spurs, who have now won 16 consecutive games, were led by Tony Parker, who scored 22 points on his 30th birthday.
Indiana were expected to be no challenge for Miami in the series, but suddenly it is the Heat who must regroup after being outscored 51-32 in the second half for a second consecutive loss.
“The game was won once again with defense and rebounding, and that’s [what] this team’s identity is about,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel told reporters.
Big man Roy Hibbert played the meatiest role, muscling his way to 19 points and 18 rebounds against a Heat team again missing injured forward Chris Bosh.
“His favorite saying is: ‘Send them to Big Dog,’” Pacers guard George Hill said of Hibbert. “When we’re in trouble, he’s our bail-out.”
Hill helped out with 20 points and forward Danny Granger collected 17 as the Pacers head into tomorrow’s Game 4 in Indianapolis with the upper hand.
Miami tried to shake up their lineup, but it had little effect.
“It was a good, old-fashioned butt-kicking,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Regular Mario Chalmers scored 25 points, while the NBA Most Valuable Player LeBron James had 22.
The three other Miami starters collectively scored five points, all by an ice-cold Dwyane Wade.
The normally high-scoring All-Star guard did not have a point in the first half for the first time in 95 post-season games.
“I guess I made history tonight,” said a frustrated Wade, who was two-of-13 from the field and screamed an expletive at Spoelstra during the third quarter.
Shane Battier, who started at small forward, missed all seven of his shots, while replacement center Dexter Pittman lasted less than three minutes as Indiana jumped out to an 11-2 lead.
The Heat fought back for a 26-17 advantage at the end of the first quarter, though that would be the last period the Heat would dominate.
The Pacers tied the score by halftime and controlled the game afterwards, holding Miami to 12 points in the third quarter as they stormed to a 69-55 lead, before closing it out in the final period.
In San Antonio, Texas, Parker made up for scoring only nine points in the opening game of the series.
“They tried to take me out of Game 1, so I had to be patient,” he said after celebrating his birthday with a crucial win. “In the first half, they did the same thing. In the second half, things started opening up.”
Tim Duncan added 18 points for the Spurs, while Blake Griffin topped the Clippers with 20.
Chris Paul scored just 10 for the Los Angeles team, having twice as many turnovers (eight) as shots made.
Parker said there was a reason.
“I’m just trying to do my best stay in front of [Paul, on defense] and make sure he takes hard shots,” he said. “It’s not just me, it’s the whole team. It’s the whole team focusing on Chris to make sure he doesn’t get going.”
Game 3 is in Los Angeles today.