The Indiana Pacers fell just short in the Eastern Conference finals opener but their gritty display pumped life into the NBA playoffs and let the defending champion Miami Heat know they have a battle on their hands.
The ease with which the top-seeded Heat have brushed aside opponents during the regular season and playoffs has given an air of inevitability to this year’s postseason, resulting in falling television ratings and plummeting interest.
But those hoping for tighter games with the chance of an upset would have been encouraged by the way the Pacers gave a timely warning to the Heat that they will need to draw on all their talent to reach a third straight final.
“It doesn’t matter if you win by one or if you win by 30 or whatever the case may be. You just want to win. We have to be better Friday if we want to win again,” LeBron James said after powering Miami to a 103-102 overtime victory on Wednesday.
Indiana have struggled on the road this year, losing 21 of 40 games in the regular season, but in a scrappy, foul-ridden game that came alive spectacularly in the closing stages, the Pacers showed their mettle.
Reported by Simon Evans of Reuters