With leading scorer and best all-around player Paul George cleared to play, the Indiana Pacers look to regain some momentum against the Miami Heat in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Finals Saturday night at American Airlines Arena.
Averaging 21.5 points in the postseason, George suffered a concussion after colliding with Miami’s Dwyane Wade in Indiana’s 87-83 Game Two loss and later told reporters he had blurred vision and dizziness but still continued to play. He shot 4-for-16 from the field and wound up with 14 points, five rebounds and six assists in 43 minutes despite seeing stars.
The NBA’s policy regarding head injuries was called into question, but George passed all the tests and was cleared to play as the series enters a critical juncture tied at 1-1. The series now turns to Miami, where the Heat were 32-9 during the regular season, tied for second best in the NBA, and haven’t lost all postseason.
The loss of George for even one game could have proved dangerous for Indiana in a budding rivalry that’s centered largely on defense. George and guard Lance Stephenson have been big reasons why the Pacers have played the hard-charging Heat so well the best past three seasons, and either missing time against Miami’s LeBron James and Wade could prove deadly for the Pacers hopes for the Finals.
In Game Two James tallied 22 points, seven rebounds and six assists with two steals and three blocks, and Wade put together his second-straight 20-point game for the first time in these playoffs with 23 points, while Miami shot better than 50 percent from the floor. The pair combined for Miami’s final 20 points, and James ignited the winning 12-2 run in the fourth quarter with six straight points.
Yet Miami’s biggest boost came from the bench with guard Norris Cole recording 11 points, and forward Chris Andersen pulling down 12 rebounds in 29 minutes and his defense limiting Indiana’s David West to 10 points on 5-for-16 shooting.
Andersen helped close out Miami’s major rebound discrepancy from Game One (38-29 Indiana), and his length has also disrupted West’s backup, veteran Luis Scola.
All five of the Indiana’s starters scored in double-figures, with Stephenson leading all scorers with 25 points, but they appeared to let up on their aggressiveness toward the basket. In Game One the Pacers totaled 37 attempts from the free throw line, and Game Two that dropped to 15.
Still Indiana also saw some significant signs of life from center Roy Hibbert, who recorded his first double-double of the playoffs with 12 points and 13 rebounds. In last year’s conference finals matchup against Miami, Hibbert stomped the Heat for an average of 22.1 points and 10.4 rebounds while shooting 55.7 percent from the floor.
Start Time: Saturday, 8:30 p.m. EST
TV Channel: ESPN
Live Online Stream Info: A live online stream is available at Watch ESPN here
Betting Odds: Miami -7
Over/Under: 183 points
Prediction: Miami over Indiana 93-90