INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indiana Pacers' joyride is over.
The Pacers breezed through the regular season and the first six
games of the playoffs. Then came their trip to Miami.
Behind rookie Dwyane Wade and Lamar Odom, the Heat won two in a
row to even the second-round series. The victories extended their
home winning streak to 18 and abruptly ended Indiana's successful
Now the pressure is squarely on the Pacers heading into
Saturday's Game 5 in Indianapolis, where they have won 12 straight.
"This is a test of our will," forward Austin Croshere said.
"We really haven't faced any adversity yet, but we are facing it
now. This is our wake-up call."
The Pacers won an NBA-best 61 games during the regular season --
the most in franchise history -- then set a league record by winning
six straight playoff games by double digits. The last two came
against a Heat team that looked weary from a seven-game first-round
series and overmatched against the deeper, more talented Pacers.
What a difference a beach makes.
"It's a very new ballgame," Heat forward Caron Butler said.
"Now we've got to get a win on the road."
The Pacers were clearly rattled by the resurgent Heat. In the
closing moments of Wednesday's Game 4 loss, Indiana point guard
Jamaal Tinsley was ejected for a flagrant foul on Eddie Jones and
Ron Artest picked up another flagrant for a takedown of Wade.
"I sensed a little frustration on their part because they
jumped out on us early and maybe felt they could have won the
game," Heat center Brian Grant said. "But we came back on them
and down the stretch we weren't going to back down."
It's an unfamiliar position for the Pacers, who have lost
back-to-back games for just the fourth time this season. They have
not lost three games in a row since April 2003.
"This is the first challenge we've had in two rounds," forward
Jermaine O'Neal said. "This is a new situation for us. We just
need to play our game. I know the coaches are frustrated because
they've done all they can do."
The good news for Indiana is that O'Neal has broken out of his
shooting slump. After going 10-for-32 in the first two games,
O'Neal scored 66 points in the two in Miami, including 37 in Game
But Tinsley says offense was never the concern against the Heat,
who haven't won on the road since beating New Orleans on Jan. 31.
"We're getting enough points. We have find a way to stop
people," Tinsley said.
The Heat shot 51.4 percent from the field and easily penetrated
the Pacers' defense for dunks and layups.
Odom's stellar inside-out game helped Miami climb out from a
nine-point, first-quarter hole. He hit two 3-pointers and added two
electrifying dunks in the second half to whip the capacity crowd
into a frenzy.
And for once, the Heat were the team with all the balance. Odom
led six players in double figures, which was too much for O'Neal
and Artest, who scored 28, to overcome by themselves.
Suddenly, it's a series.
"Our goal was to win one" in Miami, said guard Reggie Miller,
who scored just three points in Game 4. "It's not a crisis, but
we're facing adversity right now."