Heat 100, Pacers 88
-- The entire Miami Heat team defeated Jermaine O'Neal and Ron Artest Wednesday night. Well, that's how it looked at American Airlines Arena, where a high-energy, relentless Heat lineup with six players in double figures overpowered an Indiana Pacers squad that got 65 points from two men and 23 from everybody else.
The 100-88 victory in this Eastern Conference semifinal gave the Heat its 18th straight win at home and, most gratifying of all for a team that has lost five consecutive playoff games on the road, ensured that there will be a Game 6 in Miami. The series, now tied at two games apiece, moves to Indianapolis for Saturday's Game 5.
"Their energy was great," Pacers Coach Rick Carlisle said. "Their shooting was sometimes beyond belief. . . . They're riding a wave of energy right now which is maybe second to none that I've ever seen in the playoffs."
If the Pacers played an unbalanced game, Miami executed with perfect symmetry to the delight of a raucous crowd of 20,128, spreading the ball around as if it were a loaf of bread to be shared and enjoyed. Caron Butler scored 22 points, Lamar Odom 21 and Dwyane Wade added 20. No player took more than 13 shots. Miami shot 51.4 percent.
"It was a lot of fun," Odom said. "As it starts to get more competitive, it gets more fun. . . . Home is the easy part. Winning this game away is going to be hard."
The Pacers, who hadn't lost a playoff game before Monday in Miami and who won 19 more games than the Heat during the regular season, got 37 points from Jermaine O'Neal and 28 from Ron Artest. They let their frustrations pour forth as the final minutes ticked off. Artest grabbed a driving Wade for a flagrant foul call with over a minute remaining.
A minute earlier, Jamaal Tinsley handcuffed Eddie Jones, grabbing him around the neck as he went up for a layup, a foul that resulted in words between the two, double technical fouls, and Tinsley's ejection. Carlisle blamed the hot tempers not on the defeat but on the free throw differential in the second half: Miami went to the line 15 times; the Pacers, 8.
That, though, was hardly the biggest imbalance. Besides O'Neal and Artest, the rest of Indiana's starting unit, Jeff Foster, Tinsley and Miller, hit 1 of 12 field goals. No other Pacer scored more than twice from the field.
"It is a series now," said Indiana guard Reggie Miller, who was 0 for 5. "The pressure's back on us. . . . It's not a crisis, but we are facing adversity right now."
Miami trailed by three at the half, but it didn't last long. The Heat played the third quarter as if it was its last, scoring eight straight points to start the period on three jumpers by Butler (8 of 13) and a field goal by Odom (9 of 13). During the 13-point period, Artest and O'Neal scored 11; the rest of the Pacers, just two.
The Heat began the fourth period with another burst, stretching its lead to 11 points, but the Pacers climbed back to within four on an Artest three-pointer, an O'Neal tip in and an Austin Croshere dunk. Wade quickly rendered all that meaningless by scoring two straight baskets.
The Pacers had a 56-53 lead at halftime, but as has been its custom, Miami did not let the Pacers run away. Despite falling behind by nine in the first quarter, the Heat seemed to pick up inspiration when reserve Malik Allen outjumped O'Neal for a jump ball at the Pacers' end of the court with about seven minutes left in the second period.
The ball was tipped to Butler on the run, and he cruised in for a thunderous dunk that brought the score to 37-35. On their next trip down the court, Odom hit a three-pointer from the top of the key that gave Miami the lead for the first time since early in the first quarter. How close was the scoring until halftime? The teams were tied six times until Croshere hit a three-pointer as the buzzer sounded.
"We're so confident at home," Wade said. "No matter what the score is, we feel we're going to win the game."