The plan was to get the Heat into a fullcourt game, make them run, wear out the bodies on the diluted roster that had played the previous night in Toronto and didn't arrive at their Indianapolis hotel room until about 2:30 Wednesday morning.
What was it Mike Tyson said? Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the nose.
Miami smacked the Pacers with a 38-point first quarter, led by as many as 16 midway through the second period and held off their frantic rally with late-game precision for an improbable 114-106 victory at Bankers Life Fieldhouse that ruined their hopes for a sweep of their four-game homestand.
Or maybe it wasn't so improbable. The Heat won their sixth straight game to improve to 24-17, and did it the way they did it the second half of last season — with a halfcourt offensive clinic that assures balanced offense. Seven of their eight players scored in double figures, and the slacker who didn't — Derrick Jones, Jr. — had eight.
It was the kind of display that left the Pacers as inclined to tip a collective cap toward South Beach as to punish themselves for their own faults, which they acknowledged were plentiful. Miami looked like the more rested team, and certainly the more difficult team to defend.
"They did a good job moving the ball," Darren Collison said. "So many different guys were in different actions...it seemed everybody was involved in their offense.
"That's how they've been playing the last two years. (Heat coach) Erik Spoelstra has done a great job integrating every single guard into action. This is our first year together, so we could take something from them, if we want to do the same."
What the Pacers would have liked to take from the Heat was at least a few percentage points of Miami's field goal percentage. Entering the game as the NBA's second-best 3-point shooting team (.384) they hit just 1-of-18 attempts. They also missed 10 of their 29 foul shots, so it's a wonder they managed to fight their way back to a tie with five minutes left in the game.
They did because of a ramped-up defense and the fearless aggression of Victor Oladipo and Lance Stephenson, who tried boldly but futilely to make up for the lack of sniper firepower with attacks on the basket. The Pacers outscored Miami in the paint 72-40 largely because of their efforts, but it couldn't make up for all those missed shots.
Stephenson, who scored 10 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter, hit a step-back jumper from 14 feet with 5:09 left that tied the game, at which point it seemed the Pacers were going to pull off another dramatic comeback.
Moments earlier, Oladipo had deflected the ball loose in Miami's halfcourt, which led to Stephenson hitting Cory Joseph for a layup. Stephenson was bumped by Gordon Dragic after the pass, drawing a foul. After laying on the floor for dramatic effect, Stephenson jumped up and wave his arms to ignite the fans.
Something ominous happened right after that, however. A whistle was blown just as Stephenson was ready to shoot the free throw. He made it, but it didn't count. The referees reviewed the play to make sure Joseph's layup should count. Once confirmed, Stephenson re-shot the free throw — and missed.
Still, his game-trying shot seemed to provide the Pacers with a blank slate to write their happy ending.
"When it was tied up, I thought we had them, because they were playing on a back-to-back," Stephenson said. "We thought their legs would get a little bit tired. But they had enough juice in them."
The Pacers had a chance to take the lead after Josh Richardson was called for traveling, but Bojan Bogdanovic missed a 3-pointer and Tyler Johnson answered with a 3-pointer to give the Heat a lead they never relinquished.
Stephenson had another 3-pointer that could have tied the game from 29 feet with 2:19 left, but missed. It looked good most of the way.
"Right at the end, it went to the side," he said. "I'm like, what?"
Dragic ran off a pick for a layup on Miami's next possession to open a five-point lead. Later, after the Pacers had missed five of their next six shots, scoring only on Stephenson's grown-man rebound in traffic, Wayne Ellington hit a 3-pointer that bounced off the rim and managed to fall back through to give his team a six-point lead with 23.2 seconds left.
It was that kind of night, but the Heat were more than lucky. They hit 60 percent of their shots in the fourth quarter, and 53 percent in the game, by getting good shots and hitting the timeliest of them.
"They run a lot of actions," said Oladipo, who finished with 26 points. "They have a lot of guys who can do multiple things, a lot of versatile guys on their roster. They can attack from different ways, different players can do different things...that's what makes them so effective.
"Credit them, man, they did a great job."
The Pacers played without center Myles Turner, who watched the game in street clothes with a brace on his right elbow, which he injured while slamming a breakaway dunk in the first half of Monday's victory over Milwaukee. He would have helped the Pacers spread the floor and offered more of an inside defensive presence that his replacement, Domantas Sabonis, who finished with 18 points and seven rebounds.
Miami, though, was even more shorthanded. Dion Waiters, its second-leading scorer, and 2015 lottery pick Justise Winslow, who was taken one spot ahead of Turner, sat out with injuries, and starting forward James Johnson missed the game because of a suspension resulting from an incident in Toronto.
It made up for those absences with execution, which Pacers coach Nate McMillan thought was lacking from his team.
"I didn't think our offense made them work enough to create open opportunities," he said. "I thought we started the game off with tough, contested quick shots which led to a big first quarter for them. Quick shots, turnovers, and they were off to the races."
It was a race the tired team won, by knowing the shortcuts.
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