After Chris Bosh's Game 1 abdominal strain changed the landscape of the Eastern Conference semifinals, the Indiana Pacers took advantage of their opportunity in Game 2, scratching out a 78-75 win over the Heat on Tuesday night. It wasn't pretty — the two teams combined to miss 97 field goals in 48 minutes of basketball, including 10 in the final 2:15 of the fourth quarter, as well as 17 free throws, including six in the last 80 seconds — but a win's a win, and given the choice between playing lovely but dropping to 0-2 or getting grimy and being level, Indy'll take the latter.
Miami point guard Mario Chalmers had a look at a 3-pointer from the wing that would have knotted the score at 78 with scant seconds remaining, but he missed (though he may have been fouled) and the final buzzer sounded, at which point several Pacers momentarily got slightly happy. That kind of thing can happen when your team just stole a physical one on the road, securing a split at AmericanAirlines Arena that sends you back to Indiana with home-court advantage and much sunnier prospects than most outside of Bankers Life Fieldhouse imagined a week ago.
The reserved revelry was short-lived, though — David West, Indiana's taciturn power forward, quickly kiboshed it, shepherding his teammates off the floor and back to the Indiana locker room.
"You know, we can't get too excited because we won one game," said West — who led Indiana with 16 points (14 of which came in the second half) and 10 rebounds — during his postgame press conference, which you can watch in full after the jump. "That's not our goal in this series. We can't overreact because we were able to get one game down here. We've got to win professionally and understand that we haven't reached the goal that we set out to reach."
That's a reasonable, measured response, the sort of leadership Pacers coach Frank Vogel counts on from West, a nine-year veteran whose 31 career playoff appearances are Indiana's second-most behind reserve guard Leandro Barbosa (71). Apparently, though, the split seconds of joy that escaped the Pacers before West bottled it back up heartily offended Heat guard Dwyane Wade, who now intends to use them as super-premium fuel for the unyielding and furious revenge fantasy he plans to act out over the balance of this series.
"I heard they wanted to be like the Dallas Mavericks, in a sense," Wade said about an apparent reference to Pacers coach Frank Vogel using last year's Mavs team, which beat the Heat in Miami for the title, as motivation for Indiana. "I saw their little celebration at the end of [Game 2]. I don't know if they didn't expect to win, but every night we go out on the court, we expect to win."
Wade then was asked about the celebration, but didn't elaborate on what specifically irritated him.
"They say their identity, they say they want to be like Dallas," Wade said. "So they celebrated like Dallas, I guess."
For one thing, that sounds inaccurate — I saw neither a sweaty billionaire in a smedium T-shirt nor Larry Hagman swilling magnums of Ace of Spades on the Pacer bench, so I think Wade's got his facts wrong.
But let's not be mean — sometimes people use comedy to deflect attention away from the fact that they're hurting and the reasons why. Like the fact that you missed four shots in the last 2:15, including a layup with 16 seconds left that would have tied the game. Or that you gave Indy two free points earlier in the fourth by committing a reckless flagrant foul that probably would have gotten most non-stars tossed.
Or that your team missed 14 of 17 shots in the third quarter, giving Indiana a chance to get back into the game after being suffocated in the first half. Or that the league's MVP opened the Pandora's box of public opinion by going scoreless in the final 4:30 of the game and missing two free throws that would have given Miami the lead with 54 seconds remaining. You know, stuff like that.
Rather than put those things out there for discussion, it was easier to go to the well of perceived slights — one from which Derrick Rose, Larry Sanders and Kevin Love have also drawn this season, as Jared Wade noted Tuesday night at Eight Points, Nine Seconds — and try to shift the narrative away from Miami's second-half failings, its very real offensive concerns and the fact that it now has to take at least one game in Indiana without one of its biggest guns to avoid an early exit. Those things don't seem like they'd be very fun for Wade, LeBron James, Erik Spoelstra and the rest of the Miami Heat to talk about for the next 31 or so hours before Game 3 tips Thursday.
Is the clip at the top of this post not working for you? Feel free to check out West directing traffic elsewhere, thanks to CBSSports.com's Ben Golliver.
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