It is currently halftime in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals and I can only imagine what is being said in the Miami Heat locker room. Down by four as the Indiana Pacers lead 42-38, the Heat had a rough start to the matchup, only really finding their footing towards the end of each quarter.
The Heat went on 9-2 and 16-5 runs as the first and second quarters closed out, once again proving that their “clutch” label is there for a reason. However, relying on strong final minutes is not necessarily the best strategy. If Miami find themselves down by more than a handful, waiting until the last minute to really give it their all, will not be enough.
It took two minutes for anything to drop for the Heat, and they never held a lead. The closest they got was being tied, 2-2, with 10:22 left on the clock in the first quarter. To say it was a slow start, would be an understatement.
And frustration definitely showed; CJ Watson and Norris Cole got into it with a little over a minute left in the first, and received double-technicals for their poor behavior.
But after some back and forth aggression between LeBron James and Lance Stephenson, James finally got started, motivating teammates Dwyane Wade and Norris Cole to also kick into high-gear, combining for 23 points and a healthy amount of ball movement.
In order for the Heat to get this series to 2-1, the second half needs to consist of a faster start, better defense, and less confrontation.
Closing out quarters is a valuable skill, even a necessity. However, nothing compares to consistent play, through and through. Slow starts cannot become a habit for the Heat, if they wish to not only make it out of this round, but win a third championship.
Defensively (and otherwise), the Pacers need to be stopped, period. Roy Hibbert is showing nothing but offensive aggression so far tonight, with 10 points at the half. Meanwhile, Lance Stephenson has taken care of the other end with nine rebounds (comparing to the 11 total that the Heat currently possess).
It is no secret that these two teams do not get along. And Stephenson’s comment on his desire to reinjure Wade’s knee is probably just the tip of the iceberg. But winning a championship should be more important than mouthing off to an opponent. Both Miami and Indiana need to focus on the journey ahead and stop letting emotions (and nerves) get the best of them.
One half left. Time to start strong and finish stronger.