It was not the Eastern Conference finals; it was not even the playoffs. And because it was not, the Indiana Pacers took the 90-84 victory over the two-time champion Miami Heat as a nice start toward something they hope will be bigger when the post season begins next spring.
”It’s just one game,” Pacers center Roy Hibbert said. ”We’re going to learn from it. It’s a learning experience. It’s still early in the season. We have a lot more work to do.”
They did enough work last night in handing Miami its fifth loss in five games. Hibbert exploited the Heat’s one blatant weakness by scoring with 24 points in the low post. In the second half, emerging superstar Paul George was a force, scoring 15 points, including two big 3-pointers during a 15-point run that rallied Indiana from a seven-point halftime deficit.
”It was fun, a real intense game,” George said. ”Both teams were playing at a high level. You could see an urgency to win this game.”
The win pushed the Pacers’ home record to 10-0, a franchise-record to start a season. They also moved three games in front of Miami for the best record in the East.
”I thought we brought it tonight,” LeBron James (17 points, 14 rebounds, six assists) said. ”We know they’re a very good defensive team. I thought they hit some tough shots and they attacked the rim real well but even though they had us down by 10 rebounds, I thought we rebounded well and we battled.”
Added Miami forward Chris Bosh: ”Anytime you get into this kind of a slugfest with them, where you’re down six to eight points, it feels like it’s a 20-point lead. We know they’re a good team. We know what their goals are, we know what our goals are, we want to keep building to be a complete team for the spring.”