Updated: May 18, 2012, 8:09 AM ET

1. Pacers Keep Heat In A World Of Hurt

By Brian Windhorst
ESPN.com

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Miami Heat are in some trouble.

They're not in trouble because they have chemistry issues. They're not in trouble because of clutch issues. They're not in trouble because they don't have a designated closer. They're not in trouble because of coaching decisions. They're not even in trouble because they're now down 2-1 in their East semifinals series with the Indiana Pacers.

The Heat are in trouble because they have hit the greatest danger of any team chasing a title: health problems with their star players. And to compound matters, they have found themselves playing a confident team that is peaking, which is exacerbating the situation.

Roy Hibbert
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Chris Bosh was back in Miami on Thursday night when the Indiana Pacers executed a one-sided 94-75 win. Bosh, who has an abdominal strain, will not be back for this series. And now it appears that one of their other All-Stars, Dwyane Wade, is dealing with issues of his own that may be a crippling blow to the Heat.

Wade has been getting some treatments in recent days to deal with a lower-leg issue that also caused him to miss some games at the end of the regular season. It seems to be affecting his performance, especially his jump shot, and is showing up in other ways such as getting back on defense and being lethargic on defensive rotations.

It was evident in Wade's performance. He had, by any measure, the worst playoff game of his career in Game 3. He was 2-of-13 shooting with as many points, five, as turnovers. It created such a level of frustration that it led to some tense exchanges on the Heat bench during the second half.

The Heat, for rational reasons, won't talk about the issue bothering Wade. They try talking around it but there's no denying it.

"He never makes excuses, and we won't do that as well," coach Erik Spoelstra said. "No one is feeling 100 percent."

"It's obvious he wasn't himself," LeBron James said. "At this point everyone is a little banged up."

"It could be a lot of reasons," Wade said, explaining his bad night. "You get to this point of the season, no one is 100 percent."

Clearly, he was talking about himself. Wade is shooting just 31 percent in the series and has been taking it easy in team practices as he tries to rest on off days. On Thursday his jump shots were routinely short, hitting the front of the rim in a classic symptom of a player not getting normal lift.

Spoelstra said he hoped the extra day off before Game 4, which isn't until Sunday, should help Wade. The coach also had to try to manage the message of a third-quarter exchange during a timeout in which it appeared Wade brushed Spoelstra off and then did the same to several teammates.

"That was during a very emotional part of the game, we were getting our butt kicked," Spoelstra said. "Those exchanges happen all the time during the course of an NBA season."

Combined with the loss of offense without Bosh, though, a diminished Wade is causing a massive dip in the Heat's offensive potency, and it's creating serious questions about whether the Heat will be able to survive it. They have time left, but if Wade's condition is uncertain, so is their future.

Even getting an unexpected postseason career-high 25 points from Mario Chalmers, the Heat didn't have enough firepower to deal with the surging Pacers in Game 3. Late in the game Chalmers also suffered a wrist injury. X-rays after the game were negative, but now he's battling his second wrist injury of the season. Even James wasn't quite himself. He scored 22 points but had just six on 3-of-12 shooting in the second half, which quickly got away from the Heat.

Indiana, playing in front of a raucous crowd, the likes of which not seen in these parts for years, is feasting on the Heat's situation. Instead of worrying about Bosh, the Pacers have adjusted their defense to allow center Roy Hibbert to roam free in the paint, and he's significantly impacting the Heat's ability to get to the rim.

There's no question it opened the door for Hibbert to have the best playoff game of his career, which he did with 19 points, 18 rebounds and 5 blocks.

"Without [Bosh] in the game, I can wander a little bit more and make the paint look a little more crowded and block more shots," Hibbert said. "When he's there I have to respect his ability."

Add the Pacers' size on the perimeter, especially the 6-foot-10 Paul George, and the matchup has suddenly swung in the underdog's favor. Wade is battling and dealing with having to get by a 6-10 guy to beat a 7-2 guy in Hibbert and doing it without his pick-and-roll partner, Bosh. The situation isn't much different for James, who has been matched up with the lanky Danny Granger and George as well.

"I think I can see in the eyes of LeBron and D-Wade that they want to take over and their role players are trying to find them, but I think our guards are doing a great job," Hibbert said. "I think they'll figure it out, but until then we need to take advantage of their lack of continuity."

There's more than one way to win a basketball game, of course. But the Heat's countermeasure, the outside shot, is a complete wreck as well. On Thursday, they shot 4-of-20 from 3-point range, a terrible number, but it actually improved their shooting for the series. They are 5-of-42 from 3-point range in the series.

Taking a wide-angle view, you have a Heat team limping and slumping combined with a Pacer team fully equipped to make it worse. The Pacers can smell it and it shows in their performance as they continue to play with confidence.

Four players scored 14 or more points for Indiana, led by 20 points from George Hill that pretty much neutralized the performance of Chalmers. For a second consecutive game, they also battered the smaller Heat on the boards, winning by a 52-36 margin.

"We understand we have a lot of work to do," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. "We're not going to get overjoyed for getting this victory."


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