Jeff Foster? Foster? JEFF FOSTER!!
INDIANAPOLIS -- Once again Saturday night, the Heat hit the road as gracefully as a truck-struck possum splayed out on the interstate.
''Pathetic,'' described coach Stan Van Gundy, looking on the bright side.
Miami got zero first-half points from Lamar Odom, got thoroughly out-rebounded and generally played defense as if the concept were foreign, but, more than any of that, here is all you need to know about how silly things got inside Conseco Fieldhouse:
The Pacers' Jeff Foster dominated.
''Fabulous,'' Van Gundy called his performance.
Fabulous and Foster should never go together. Not under any circumstance.
Foster, a veteran non-factor, a professional space-taker-upper, scored 20 points on 9-for-10 shooting and had 16 rebounds and mostly flummoxed Odom in the 94-83 Indiana victory whose final score made the game seem remotely close when it was not.
You'd call this the game of Foster's dreams, except he's not good enough even to be allowed to dream this big.
The Heat getting dominated by Jeff Foster would be like the Marlins losing on a pair of homers by the opposing batboy, or the hockey Panthers giving up a hat trick to Olympic figure skater Scott Hamilton.
Jeff Foster on fire? He is more likely to be found literally engulfed in flames than to catch the kind of figurative fire he did Saturday night -- and yet he was as big a reason as any that this home-dominated NBA playoff series now swings back to Miami with the Pacers up 3-2 entering Tuesday's rematch down south.
''They just played a lot, lot harder than we did,'' said the always forthright Van Gundy. ``Defensively, we were horrible. I obviously did not have our team ready to play a big Game 5 today. We looked totally unprepared. The coach has got to take the blame for a defensive performance like that. And I do.''
It wasn't lack of preparation, of course. Or poor coaching.
It was that Miami hasn't figured a way to fit its home-court intensity in the luggage it packs for road trips, and that pattern has give this entire playoff run a predictability. It has been the hardcourt equivalent of the movie Groundhog Day, everything staying the same, repeating itself.
Miami has won 18 straight games at home including all six in these playoffs, but the Heat is 0-6 now on the postseason road and 13-34 away from home overall this season. Miami has not won on the road all season against a team with a winning record, a freaky anomaly, but a fact now weighing roughly six tons.
''Home is where you feel like you can do whatever you want,'' the Pacers' Al Harrington had opined before the game.
After which his team went and proved it.
Now, of course, Miami will win Game 6 back down on the bay Tuesday (because it'll be Groundhog Day again), and then the series finale will be back up here, where the same onus as Saturday's will be squarely on the Heat. Again.
How to break the cycle, though?
''We have to have 100 percent belief that we can do it,'' said the Heat's Malik Allen -- meaning win a Game 7 here. ``That's been our problem. We don't play a 48-minute game on the road. We break down.''
The inevitability of Indiana winning Saturday wasn't only rooted in Miami's abysmal record away from home.
It was that nothing ever -- ever -- seems to come easily for the Heat.
This is the 16-year-old franchise which has advanced fUrther than this round only once in its history and, when it did, promptly hit a buzz-saw called Michael Jordan in his prime.
This is the snakebit club that put all of the wrinkles on Pat Riley's face and the gray in his perfect hair.
All of those awful bounces against the Knicks . . .
The major trades that weren't . . .
The centerpiece of the team felled by kidney disease.
What has ever been easy for the Heat?
This is the team that slugged and scraped up from 0-7 and 5-15 starts this season.
Then held its breath on the final day of the regular season and got the last playoff spot.
Then won a seven-game alley fight with New Orleans in the playoffs' first round.
Then fell back two games to none against the mighty Pacers.
No, this was never supposed to be as easy as a stunning upset on Saturday night might have made it.
And so the groundhog showed its head on cue, just like you knew it would.
The only shock was that it looked just like Jeff Foster.
It's quite clear that Greg Cote has not seen Jeff Foster much during the regular season, and obviously does not know that Jeff is capable of having such nights on a regular basis if need be.
Jeff isn't going to have plays designed for him, and he isn't going to take game winning shots either. However, Jeff can score double figures points, and get double figure rebounding totals by doing what he does best, and that's attacking.
Jeff is the one Pacers play that I've never had to question his effort, his will, and his desire to win. He simply attacks the basket when he's out there, can score points off the pick and roll, and his shot from farther away from the basket is improving.
He scores points off of what he makes happen by getting to loose balls quicker than anybody on the court, and he knows usually what to do with the ball when he gets it in these situations.
If Jeff can stay out of foul trouble, and score around 8-12 points per game, and get around 8-10 boards per game we can be a better team than we already are. Anything else is just gold.
I'm proud of Jeff, and Cote is obviously underestmating Jeff's talent, and potential. But that's alright, we know who Jeff is and what he stands for.