Pressure? Sure, the Indiana Pacers are under some.
But it’s nothing compared to what the Miami Heat must feel.
Or so insists Pacers forward Danny Granger.
Miami, after all, entered the Eastern Conference semifinals not only the presumptive favorite to win the series but to motor on to the NBA Finals. And win it, too.
Moreover, the Heat have two superstars, one of which is the MVP, along with massive media attention and hyper-hyped expectations of winning not one, but several, NBA championships.
So the way the Granger looks at it, No. 2 seed Miami is really feeling the heat, not the other way around, in tonight’s Game 5 at American Airlines Arena.
With the best-of-seven series knotted 2-2, the onus is squarely on the LeBron James/Dwayne Wade-powered Heat to reclaim control and stave off elimination.
Or so says Granger.
“The pressure is on them,” Granger said. “They have a lot of expectations that have to do with the media, ever since they assembled that team to win multiple championships.
“Definitely in this series, the pressure is on them.”
Perhaps. But the pressure is still on the No. 3-seed Pacers to win at least one more time on Miami’s home floor. They did it in Game 2, when they stole home-court advantage. But they surrendered it Sunday when they lost Game 4 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Regardless which team feels the most pressure tonight, the pressure is on both to avoid the brink of elimination. The series returns Thursday to Bankers Life Fieldhouse and concludes Saturday in Miami, if Game 7 is necessary.
“Nobody said this would be easy, but we’ve proved that we can go there and win,” Pacers swingman Paul George said. “We did a great job the games that we played them there.
“We’ve got the confidence still.”
But Miami might have the momentum.
Faced with prospect of falling behind 3-1, the Heat throttled the Pacers in the second half of Sunday’s game, rallying from a 10-point third-quarter deficit for a 101-93 win. James had 40 points, and Wade — coming off a five-point performance in Game 3 — had 30.
The twin eruptions, coupled with poor shooting and soft rebounding by the Pacers, paved the way for Miami to even the series and reclaim the home-court edge.
“Me and Bron both had it going and played off each other well,” said Wade, who scored 22 points in the second half. “That’s beautiful basketball, or Miami basketball, or whatever you want to call it.”
Pacers coach Frank Vogel called it a combination of a fixable Indiana breakdown and two Miami superstars clicking.
“There’s more we can do,” Vogel said. “Those two guys are as good as it gets. There’s no other way to look at it. But when you have the weapons that we have, you can game-plan and do better.”
Specifically, the Pacers will have to do better on the boards and avoid the scoring lapses that allowed the Heat to claw back in the third quarter, where James and Wade scored 14 points each. For the game, Indiana was outrebounded 47-38 and outshot 47 percent to 41 percent from the field.
“This is the playoffs. We have no time to (dwell) on the loss,” said Pacers point guard George Hill, who had one of his worst games of the postseason with eight points on 2-of-9 shooting. “We’ll look at the tapes, get with the coaches and get things done the way they should.”
Granger, who has had heated verbal confrontations with James and/or Wade in each of the past three games, insists the Pacers will rebound against the star-studded favorites.
“We have to send a message as a team that we won’t back down,” Granger said of his run-ins with the Heat stars. “They are kind of the media darlings of the NBA right now. They get a lot of publicity and what-not.
“It just basically sends a message Indiana basketball is about playing tough on every possession, and we’re not afraid of them.”
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