Originally created 05/10/04

Heat in another hole as series moves to Miami



MIAMI -- This is a small, but daunting hole for the Miami Heat.

They started the season 0-7 and were 25-36 in March before staging a late surge and earning the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Now they're down 0-2 against the Indiana Pacers as the best-of-seven series moves to Miami on Monday night.

The Heat see it as a more manageable situation than their early season woes, especially since Games 3 and 4 are at AmericanAirlines Arena, where Miami has won 16 consecutive games. But they also know it won't be easy with the way the Pacers are playing.

"From where we've been, nothing bothers us now," guard Dwyane Wade said Sunday. "This team, we don't worry about anything. When we start playing our game, we know we're a pretty tough team."

The problem for the Heat, though, is that the Pacers have taken them out of their game. The bigger, more physical team has dominated the series - even without much help from All-Star forward Jermaine O'Neal - and showed no signs of relenting on the road.

Guard play has been the surprising key.

Wade scored a combined 41 points in the first two games but also had 12 turnovers against nine assists. Eddie Jones managed just three shots in the series opener and has scored a combined 13 points on 3-of-9 shooting.

Heat coach Stan Van Gundy said he ran 16 plays for Jones in Game 2, but turnovers and Indiana's smothering defense resulted in just six shots for Miami's leading scoring during the regular season.

"I went back and made sure we were running stuff in his direction," Van Gundy said. "I can't call many more than 16 plays for one guy."

The Pacers' guards, meanwhile, found much more success in the first two games.

Jamaal Tinsley was 5-of-6 shooting from the 3-point line and scored 17 points in the first game. He missed his only shot Saturday night but had nine assists and no turnovers.

Reggie Miller was on the receiving end of many of the passes. Miller scored 19 points on 6-of-10 shooting and hit three from behind the arc, including one on one leg and with Jones' hand in his face at the halftime buzzer.

"He's very capable and he has a lot left in the tank," Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said.

Indiana's biggest advantage was supposed to be in the post behind O'Neal, Ron Artest, Al Harrington and Jonathan Bender.

But defense-minded Brian Grant has limited O'Neal to 10-of-32 shooting (31 percent) from the floor. Although Harrington and Bender have fared slightly better off the bench, Artest has given the Heat the most trouble.

He had 25 points, six rebounds and four assists in the first game, then 20 points, five assists and three blocked shots Saturday.

The Heat hope a change of scenery will change their fortune against Artest and the Pacers, who have won 11 consecutive games against Miami.

"Everything has been a little bit better at home," said Van Gundy, whose team hasn't lost in Miami since March 2. "I don't know why exactly, but we play the game better at home."

Indiana is 6-0 in the postseason and set an NBA record Saturday by winning all of them by double digits. The previous record of five straight double-digit wins was shared by the 1985 Los Angeles Lakers and 1947 Philadelphia Warriors.

"We're finding ways to win games and we have to continue to this trend," O'Neal said.

There's another trend Miami would like to break. Of the 173 previous best-of-seven series to begin 2-0, the trailing team has come back to win the series just seven times.

"This is it. We need this one," Heat forward Lamar Odom said. "We can't go down 3-0. Not too many teams come back from that. This is the most pivotal game of the year for us."