Back on December 10 the Miami Heat succumbed to the Indiana Pacers in a 90-84 victory at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis and everybody and their momma was already crowning the Indiana Pacers as the next NBA champs. Couple that with that fact that Pacers' center big Roy Hibbert was like the Hulk among pre-schoolers en route to scoring 24 points and burgeoning superstar small forward Paul George exploded for 15 points in the second half, and you had fair-weather Heat fans buying yellow and blue Indiana apparel in earnest.
Wednesday's matchup between the two Eastern Conference titans was lining up to be more of the same as LeBron James and Paul George gave the Miami Heat and its celebrity peacock-colored populous a December duel for the ages. Prior to the contest, the Pacers went on record to say that the matchup was, in the words of young shooting guard Lance Stephenson, "like a championship matchup." Meanwhile, the Heat were playing it off like it was no big deal.
One would think they were getting ready to play against the Our Lady of Gimpy Midgets rather than a team of young Turks that likely has Miami Heat voodoo dolls sitting in their lockers.
Wednesday's rematch at American Airlines Arena in Miami did not disappoint as the Pacers jumped all over the Heat like funk seeping off a subway bum, to get out to a 68-53 halftime lead. Paul George was held to two-points in the first half during the first matchup, but got off to a hot start and finished strong. No-neck power forward David West was as steady as London fog in throwing around his weight and banging the Miami forward Chris Bosh around down low.
LeBron James was a game time decision after spraining his ankle against Utah on Monday. But it all turned out to be little more than a Jedi mind trick, the likes of which would make Yoda proud as LeBron James started gingerly, but finished strong.
Though he dominated in the first matchup, Roy Hibbert was largely handcuffed by three early fouls and only finished with 6 points. Dwyane Wade was once called the Flash early in his NBA career by former teammate Shaquille O'Neal. But despite averaging 19 points per game this season, some may have thought he looked more like the Flush compared to the days where he was averaging 25 points on a nightly basis. This marked Wade's fourth straight game with 20 plus points.
For a team that said the December 18 matchup was just another regular season game, the Heat's collective competitive juices were boiling over and Mario Chalmers almost got scolded as LeBron James exploded off the bench to reprimand Chalmers during a timeout and had to be restrained by Udonis Haslem.
Perhaps he was listening to Cher before the game because he turned back time, and found a way to score 32 points while shooting 15-25 from the field. It looked like another statement victory for the Pacers, who led by seven points with less than four minutes left in the game. That's when the heat went on a 10-0 run that was capped by a 3-point shot by Ray "Jesus Shuttlesworth" Allen.
The much-hyped duel between two of the league's best small forwards was as advertised. LeBron James would finish with 24 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists. Paul George would drop 25 points to go along with 8 rebounds and 6 assists. The Miami Heat would go on to win the game 97-94.
The game ended on a controversial note as Paul George appeared to be pushed by LeBron James while attempting to shoot what would have been a game-tying 3-point shot as time expired. Though it would have been a ticky-tack foul, a player with his hand on a player attempting to shoot an outside shot would normally be called for a foul. But the refs swallowed their whistles. Perhaps they didn't want to get run up on like Mario Chalmers.