INDIANAPOLIS – Balance and key plays down the stretch led to the Pacers (19-22) getting a very important two-game sweep in Miami.
Indiana got the Miami swing started on Friday with arguably their finest offensive performance of the season.
In going an astonishing 20-of-36 from three (55.6 percent), the Pacers scored 137 points, eclipsing the 30-point mark in each quarter.
That added up to a 27-point win with the Heat unable to cut that deficit to single digits in the second half.
Malcolm Brogdon’s hot start to the second half of the year continued, with him scoring 27 points on 10-of-12 shooting (7-of-9 from behind the arc). Brogdon was one of 8 Pacers in double figures.
T.J. McConnel scored 16 points (8-of-9 shooting) and handed out 15 assists in 29 minutes off the bench.
After missing several games due to knee soreness, Jeremy Lamb returned and had 12 points in 18 minutes as a reserve.
The Pacers completed the sweep of the Heat on Sunday with a few stressful moments down the stretch.
In the final two minutes, the Pacers saw their 6-point lead turn into a game that was now going into overtime.
Domantas Sabonis fouled out in OT and the Pacers fell behind by 5 points, but consecutive 3s by Justin Holiday gave Indiana the lead back, and they wouldn’t lose it from there.
Indiana had 7 guys in double figures and earned their first sweep two-game sweep of the season over the same opponent (had split the previous four), with a 109-106 victory.
The Pacers will stay on the road for a back-to-back against Milwaukee on Monday before returning home on Wednesday vs. the Pistons.
Three Things Learned
1. Finishing In Overtime: For those locked in Sunday afternoon on March Madness, they missed quite the entertaining and up and down finish. The Pacers led by 6 with 1:34 to play but the Heat answered quickly with a Duncan Robinson 3 and a Bam Adebayo dunk. Jimmy Butler had a chance to take the lead at the foul line with 12 seconds remaining but made just 1 of 2, so overtime was the result (after a buzzer miss by Caris LeVert). In OT, the Pacers got down 5 with Domantas Sabonis fouling out. But Justin Holiday responded with consecutive 3s, and the Pacers sealed the victory with key buckets from Malcolm Brogdon and LeVert. Indiana wasn’t afraid to lean on LeVert a lot late. The results were mixed, but it is another option that the Pacers clearly feel comfortable going to. It had been a while since we’d seen the Pacers as the team making the plays down the stretch for a key victory.
2. Needed Sweep: Considering where the Pacers are right now in the regular season, you could argue this weekend sweep was the most important two-game stretch of the year. Indiana entered Friday teetering right on that line of how to handle Thursday’s trade deadline. From a standings point of view, the Pacers had to turn this better play in the second half of the season into tangible wins. They got two of them against a team above them in the standings. All of a sudden, Indiana is just 1 game in the loss column out of the 5th spot (still 2.0 full games behind No. 5 Miami). With the schedule about to soften a bit, it was really key for the Pacers to get a pair of wins against a team that had been playing really well.
3. Another Measuring Stick: In Monday’s back-to-back, the Pacers will get another chance to face off against one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. Milwaukee will be the opponent. Philadelphia, Brooklyn and Milwaukee continue to be in a class by themselves in the East. Well, those teams have run the Pacers out of the gym more often than not this season. Considering that if the Pacers do make the playoffs, it’s likely they would face one of those three, it would be nice to see a more competitive outing from Nate Bjorkgren’s team. Indiana won’t play another top-3 team in the East again until the final week of the season, and those teams could very well be resting guys at that point of the year.
Pacers Upcoming Schedule
-@Bucks (Monday, 3-22, at 9:00 PM)
-Pistons (Wednesday, 3/24, at 7:00 PM)
-@Mavericks (Friday, 3-26, at 8:30 PM)
-@Wizards (Monday, 3/29, at 7:00 PM)
-Heat (Wednesday, 3/31, at 7:00 PM)
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