The third quarter of Indiana’s Game 5 loss to the Miami Heat was the culmination of every fear the Pacers had entering the Eastern Conference finals. In those 12 minutes LeBron James summoned his most dominant stretch of the series and his 16 points were more than the entire Pacers team could manage.
The Heat also cranked up their defensive intensity and smothered the Pacers, who were nearly twice as likely to turn the ball over as make a basket in the period.
“You take away that third, and we’re in the ballgame,” said Paul George, who rode a hot shooting night to a team-high 27 points. “We just can’t have flat quarters like that.”
As has been the case for much of the series, the only things missing for the Heat in the third quarter — a period in which they outscored the Pacers, 30-13 — were Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Their usually potent role players have struggled as well. Feeling the effects of age, Ray Allen has not been able to stay in front of the Pacers’ wings on defense, and Shane Battier, who was so important in last season’s playoff victory over the Pacers, is in a profound shooting slump.
The Heat, nonetheless, turned a strong quarter into a decisive one with help from two unlikely sources: Mario Chalmers and Udonis Haslem. The series has been a testament to the Pacers’ effort. Game 5 was what happens when the Heat match it.