Originally Published: May 26, 2013

1. Heat Will Gladly Let You Take The First Swing

By Brian Windhorst | ESPN.com

INDIANAPOLIS -- As children, the members of the Miami Heat clearly were the type that had to be scolded before they'd clean their room.

The core of this group is now in its 11th playoff series together, and its personality has started to become predictable. Nothing convinces the Heat they can't be beat until they get beat. But then look out.

Sunday they re-seized control of the Eastern Conference finals with a forceful 114-96 Game 3 win over the Indiana Pacers.

It was a reminder of two staggering statistics that are part of the reason the Heat have been titlists and title favorites for a while now. They haven't lost two consecutive games in 4½ months, since the second week of January, to be precise. And since their 2011 Finals failure, they are 13-0 when falling behind in a series.

Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem
Jamie Rhodes/USA TODAY SportsChris Bosh and Udonis Haslem helped the Heat move ahead 2-1 against the Pacers.

They weren't behind in this series to the Pacers, but the premise is the same. Starting way back when they began this journey at 9-8 to start the 2010-11 season, the Heat struggle to find total motivation until they've had some dirt kicked on their boots.

Considering its talent and the injury-ravaged state of the league this season, this Heat team legitimately had the wherewithal to challenge the Chicago Bulls' single-season record of 72 wins. But they were 23-11 in mid-January and still very much coasting until they got embarrassed by starting 1-3 on a Western road trip, which caused them to get serious. They finished the season 43-5.

They lost Game 1 in the previous round to the Bulls. They won the next four games by a combined 73 points.

After the Pacers took Game 2 from the Heat in thrilling fashion after barely losing Game 1, they came to their comfortable home thinking they might have gotten just a tad bit of leverage. No, the Pacers actually had just done the worst thing they could've. They'd won.

The Heat dropped a 70-point first half on them Sunday in a 24-minute stretch during which they made 17 baskets within 10 feet of the rim, shot 63 percent in total and committed exactly one turnover. In their first home game against the New York Knicks in the previous round, the Pacers, the league's top-ranked defensive team during the regular season, gave up 71 points in 48 minutes.

"Losses have an amazing property for us," Heat resident philosopher Shane Battier said. "It cleans the wax out of our ears."

Last season, the Heat became the first team in history to come from behind to win three series on their way to the title. The undisputed best game in LeBron James' career, his incredible 45-point whitewashing of the Boston Celtics in Game 6 of the 2012 conference finals, came only when the Heat faced elimination for the first time.

It appears to be one giant passive-aggressive complex. The Heat just love it when they are doubted and enjoy the satisfaction of beating critics back into the shadows. But they also seem to only do so after having invited it in the first place.

That, or perhaps a hint of masochism -- they like to touch the stove just to see how hot it might be.

"I want to say 'No, that's not true,' but yeah," Chris Bosh, who had 15 points in Game 3, said. "Sometimes, you have to know that you can get beat. We never want to lose in a series or lose home-court advantage, but, sometimes, that's what we need."

It's not all attitude. There's more to it than that. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has routinely shown that he can execute effective adjustments with some film and practice time. He outmaneuvered several opposing coaches with midseries tweaks.

The biggest of which in Game 3 came as the Heat appeared to target Pacers defensive wizard Paul George by making him deal with James in the post.

In the last round, George was fantastic in dealing with Carmelo Anthony, but Anthony did find some success muscling the lighter George inside. James took George down a few pegs with a series of unrelenting post moves, featuring a sequence of left-handed hook shots.

The Heat also played with a renewed offensive focus. After turning the ball over 36 times in the first two games, they set a franchise record with just five in Game 3. This was not expected in an environment in which the Pacers have been dominant in the postseason and left Miami feeling very strongly about their chances.

It's not the most sound way to do business. The Heat would be better served by not having to get pushed first. It's a dangerous habit, all can agree.

But it also appears to be a luxury this group both can afford and enjoys.

"We love the fact that they took home-court [advantage] away from us," James, who had 22 points, said. "We're a team that just bounces back from adversity. I think we know what we're made of."

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