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I know we all from time to time lose perspective on the Pacers, we follow every little detail but often lose sight of the bigger picture. I think this article keeps things in perspective. Pacers are 17-4 in their last 21 games after all.
After two lackluster performances, the Heat shows signs of life by taking a Pacers team with the NBA's best record down to the wire.
BY STEPHEN F. HOLDER firstname.lastname@example.org
INDIANAPOLIS - On the heels of two of its worst performances this season, the Heat came here -- home of the team with the NBA's best record.
A recipe for disaster? Not exactly.
Miami's shots started falling. Its defense was vastly improved. Guard Dwyane Wade returned from a foot injury.
It's one thing to stay close to the Indiana Pacers at Conseco Fieldhouse, but winning is something else.
When Jermaine O'Neal, Ron Artest and Reggie Miller combine for 57 points, defeating the NBA's most consistent team is nearly impossible.
The Heat looked like a different team Sunday but could not avoid a 97-91 loss to the Pacers, who have won 17 of their past 21 games.
Indiana showed why it has amassed its impressive record, reeling off a 15-0 run that nearly buried the surging Heat -- which had taken its first lead moments earlier -- in the fourth quarter.
When the Heat refused to let that spurt be its death, Miller delivered the fatal blow with a 28-foot three-pointer from a zip code away. It gave the Pacers a comfy eight-point lead with 1:27 left, too much for the Heat to overcome.
Miami trailed by as many as 13 after the Pacers' relentless run but trailed 83-81 with 3:17 left. That's when Indiana's experience and superior talent showed most.
There was Artest battling to rebound his own miss and getting the putback.
Then there was O'Neal knocking down his turnaround jump shot with ease.
Finally, there was Miller's knockout punch, defender Eddie Jones' outstretched arm notwithstanding.
''That's just greatness right there,'' Wade said. ``That's a great player.''
Said Jones: 'He sure hit a long one. . . . I was right there. I was like, `There's no way that's going in.' ''
But it did -- like Miller's other four threes -- and with it went a much-needed pick-me-up for the Heat, losers of four straight. After edging closer to a possible playoff spot with its recent improved play, the Heat went backward with embarrassing losses to the Nets and Knicks last week.
In light of those results, Sunday's game was most encouraging.
''I cannot fault my guys,'' Heat coach Stan Van Gundy said. ``They will not let it go. They will keep battling. We saw it tonight. They hung in there and got it back, but we couldn't get it done.''
A big reason for that was Miami's rebounding disadvantage. Even Lamar Odom's 25 points, seven rebounds and seven assists couldn't make up for Miami being outrebounded 46-30. The Heat's lack of rebounding made its 50 percent shooting performance and commendable defensive play factor less prominently.
In addition to the offensive resurrection, Wade's return was a boon for Miami. He scored 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting off the bench, but he missed three critical free throws down the stretch.
Now, the Heat's main objective will be to avoid going into the All-Star break having lost all its momentum. The Lakers come calling Tuesday at AmericanAirlines Arena, with Orlando playing host to the Heat on Wednesday.
And all that's at stake each night is a potential postseason berth.
By Tom D'Angelo, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 9, 2004
INDIANAPOLIS -- Dwyane Wade was 5 years old when Reggie Miller made the first of his nearly 2,500 career three-pointers. And Wade was learning the game when he heard the stories about Miller's legendary work ethic.
Sunday, Wade, the Miami Heat's rookie guard, witnessed that dedication before and during the Indiana Pacers' 97-91 victory. The only player on the floor at the Conseco Fieldhouse when the Heat's bus arrived was Miller. About five hours later, the player whose shot broke the Heat's spirit was the 38-year-old, still-skinny-as-a-rail Miller.
"That's greatness right there,'' said Wade, who played after missing two games with a sprained left foot. "That's the kind of greatness you got a lot of respect for. The stories you hear about, you finally see him and you say, 'All right, it's true.' That's why he's a great player.''
Miller's long three-pointer with 1:27 remaining ended any thoughts of the Heat rallying from a 13-point deficit early in the fourth quarter and sealed the team's fourth straight loss. The three-pointer was Miller's fifth of the game -- on five attempts -- giving him 15 points. Like he has done so many times, Miller just turned and raised his arms knowing he had just thrown the dagger.
"It's not a surprise,'' Heat coach Stan Van Gundy said. "I've never walked in this building... where he's not out there shooting. He's been in the league 17 years and he's still here early doing his shooting. You don't see the younger guys, you see him. That guy is a consummate pro and it's not an accident that the ball goes in when he shoots it.''
Miller has passed the torch to All-Stars Jermaine O'Neal and Ron Artest but he remains a big reason why the Pacers -- and not the Lakers or Kings or Timberwolves -- have the best record in the NBA. Playing fewer than 30 minutes a game, he still is averaging in double figures and among the league leaders with a 42.2 three-point shooting percentage.
"Whenever Jermaine and Ron have it going inside you have got to double-team both of those guys,'' Miller said. "It makes it easier for the perimeter players to get outside shots. They're both excellent passers out of double-teams. We got pretty good looks at three-pointers, and they were going down for us.''
O'Neal and Artest combined for 42 points. O'Neal had 22 but was not on the floor for a six-minute stretch at the end of the third quarter and start of the fourth when the Pacers outscored Miami 15-0 to take a 77-64 lead.
The Heat twice cut the lead to two points and still were alive until Miller's three-pointer made it 90-82.
"We fought our butts off and got back and then we just took a step back,'' guard Eddie Jones said.
Lamar Odom led the Heat with 25 points and Jones added 21 as the Heat eclipsed 90 points for the sixth time in the past eight games and shot 50 percent. Miami, though, was coming off its lowest point total of the season in a 76-64 loss to the Knicks and its worst shooting game (30.5 percent).
"I thought we battled hard and got crushed on the boards, that was really the difference,'' said Van Gundy, whose team was outrebounded by 16. "I thought our ball movement was a lot better. When you get better shots and the ball moves, it's going in more often.''
It also gives proper dues to the players on our team, something they don't get that often in the Star or elsewhere, certainly JO and Ron are IMO still taken for granted way to much.
let's not forget that Ron was supposed to sit out this game with his hand that is very seriously bothering him after making it worse one or two games ago. But upon hearing Al would not play he decided that two starters out was to much and he played, for 44 minutes!
Look at the heart those two are playing with, hurt or not, they are there, and going into it banging away on the boards and fighting of double and in JO's case quite a lot of triple defense.
Reggie acknowledges the "out of the post passing" these guys do, and numbers prove it, JO's Ast rate is up and Ron's can be compared to a few PG's in this league, certainly better then most on our team
Pollie ? what can I say, if what he showed last night is close to what he can and wants to deliver, then I see jeff's minutes dwindle some more becaus he definitely brought a game yesterday and let's not forget, that guy has hardly played this season so he is "fresh"
We have a lot to look forward to
So Long And Thanks For All The Fish.
If you've done 6 impossible things today?
Then why not have Breakfast at Milliways!
I was really encouraged by Pollards play last night. It was nice to see him get the crowd cheering for his performance when he went out of the game. If he can play like that night in and night out he will regain the starting job.
The Pacers' Ron Artest scored 20+ points for the 25th time this season with his 20 points today. Indiana is 22-3 when Artest has 20+ points. That is the best record for any team in the NBA when one of its players scores 20 or more points.