Any doubts about whether this would be a competitive series quickly were extinguished.
What we had Sunday at AmericanAirlines Arena was a war of attrition.
The Miami Heat emerged with the 95-86 victory over the Indiana Pacers in the opening game of this best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series, yet might have emerged as the biggest losers.
For the Pacers, the attrition issues will be reset by the time the teams take the court for Tuesday’s Game 2 at AmericanAirlines Arena, their Sunday losses merely the result of rotation-numbing foul trouble.
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“Our guys were fouling too much,” coach Frank Vogel said.
For the Heat, the pain goes deeper, with the question being how deep into Chris Bosh’s abdomen. The All-Star power forward was lost for the second half after sustaining a lower-abdominal strain on the follow-through of a second-quarter dunk that resulted in a 3-point play.
Coach Erik Spoelstra did not sound as if Bosh was coming back any time soon.
“We have some time now. We don’t know what Chris’ status is,” Spoelstra said. “We won’t know until we get an MRI, move on from there.”
The initial sense was not encouraging.
“You saw the look on his face,” teammate Dwyane Wade said, “you knew something was wrong there.”
The Heat opened the second half with Ronny Turiaf starting in place of Bosh, relying extensively over the latter stages on former starting center Joel Anthony, whose energy sparked the Heat in the second half.
Bosh’s injury effectively reduced the Heat to a Big Two, his afternoon was finished after going for 13 points and five rebounds in 15:48 in the first half.
That had the Heat turning extensively to LeBron James and Wade, who Vogel acknowledged were, “just spectacular the whole night.”
After receiving his MVP trophy from NBA Commissioner David Stern during a pregame ceremony at center court, James led the Heat with 32 points and a season-high 15 rebounds, supported by 29 points from Wade.
“We had to turn the switch,” Wade said.
James played the entire second half, unable to bargain for time off from Spoelstra.
“I thought about taking him out for a minute,” Spoelstra mused. “I just said, ‘No, we’ll figure it out.’ I just looked him straight in the eye and told him, ‘You flat out cannot get tired. Period.”
He didn’t, scoring 10 points in the third quarter and 16 in the fourth, after a scoreless second, playing 43:15.
“We took it upon ourselves, me and D-Wade, we had to put the team on our back,” James said. “I made a conscious effort in the second half to rebound the ball even more.”