The Indiana Pacers took full advantage of the absence of the Birdman, pushing the Miami Heat to a decisive Game 7.
With the Heat’s most effective big man suspended, the Pacers took advantage of the Heat inside and used a big third-quarter run to pull away in Game 6. The 91-77 win pulled the Pacers to within one game of what would be the season’s biggest upset and revenge for the Heat eliminating them last year.
Saturday’s Game 6 between the Pacers and Heat may have been decided before either team took the floor. Heat center Chris “Birdman” Andersen was suspended by the NBA for shoving Pacers forward Tyler Hansbrough in Game 5, upgrading his flagrant 1 to a flagrant 2.
Without Andersen on the inside, the Pacers out-rebounded the Heat 53-33 and outscored them 44-22 in the paint. Pacers center Roy Hibbert finished with 24 points and 11 rebounds, also contesting many of the Heat’s shots.
“Myself and David (West), we throw ourselves in the fray, in the paint. We like to muck it up,” Hibbert said. “Paul and myself, we wanted to make sure we got this for him as well. We didn’t want this to be our last game.”.
Pacers coach Frank Vogel thinks Hibbert has been the difference in the season so far.
“Roy Hibbert is making extraordinary plays in the pocket, poise in the pocket we call it,” Vogel said. “He’s getting paint catches and just having great poise, great reads. He’s not plowing over guys. He had a charge in Game 5, but has been under control.”
The Heat struggled with shooting, matching their season low with 77 points, also set against the Indiana Pacers. LeBron James finished with 29 points on 10-of-21 shooting, but no other Miami player scored in double digits.
“They just flat-out beat us in every facet of the game. They just outclassed us in that (third) quarter,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said.
The series has been hard-fought but controversial. NBA Commissioner David Stern said that Andersen should have been ejected for his foul on Hansbrough, and three players have been fined for flopping, including LeBron James.
The Pacers and Heat will meet for Game 7 on Monday.