The last time a visiting team danced on this court at the end of a playoff night, it was to celebrate an NBA championship, not merely a series-tying win in the second round.
Yet the Indiana Pacers still found a way to push Dwyane Wade’s buttons Tuesday night with their emotional outburst after this bare-knuckles breakthrough in Game 2.
“They looked like the Dallas Mavericks the way they were celebrating,” Wade said after his Miami Heat fell 78-75 at AmericanAirlines Arena. “I don’t know if they didn’t expect to win.”
Wade uttered something that sounded like a huff after his not-so-subtle dig at these low-profile upstarts.
The question came again: Did that celebration bother the Heat, who hadn’t lost a home playoff game since last June?
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“They say that’s their identity,” Wade said, not exactly answering the question. “They say they want to be like Dallas.”
These Pacers have a long, long way to go to win the first championship in franchise history.
Yet, if they keep playing the way they did in this slogfest – dragging the more-talented Heat into the gutter and outscrapping them at every turn — they just might match the Mavericks’ feat of a year ago.
At least in terms of being the ones to knock off the team America loves to resent.
I’m not saying that’s what will happen. I still like the Heat to figure things out in six games.
But with the series shifting to Indiana for the next two games, starting on Thursday night, the possibility of a quick implosion for the Heat is suddenly more fathomable.
Chris Bosh is out with that abdominal strain, and nobody knows how long it will be before he returns.
That leaves the Heat, for now, with a Big Two of Wade (24 points) and LeBron James (28 points). Nobody else on the roster was good for more than five points in Game 2.
The Pacers, meanwhile, put four scorers in double figures. David West’s 16 points led the way for a big, physical rotation that went 10 deep for coach Frank Vogel.
Does that make this a matchup of the Big Two against the Medium 10?
“We’re the Pacers,” shooting guard Paul George said. “They can be the LeBron-and-Dwyane Wade team, but we’re the Pacers. We play like a team.”
If George’s words sound self-assured, maybe even a little cocky, there was a good reason for that. These Pacers have been trying to talk themselves into a series ever since they got done with the Dwight Howard-less Magic.
“Smashmouth basketball,” Vogel calls the Pacers’ style.
Lord knows, there was plenty of that on a night when neither team cracked 38 percent from the field and the two teams combined to shoot 4 of 31 from beyond the arc.
Then, too, George himself was brimming with confidence after going toe-to-toe with LeBron over the final few minutes and making sure the Heat stayed stuck on “75” for the final 2:41.