So who blinks first?
Now it’s a test of will between the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat. A best-of-three trial by fire, with both teams having whacked momentum back and forth at each other. First Miami, then Indiana, them the Heat, then the Pacers. If they had two rackets and a yellow ball, it’d be the French Open.
“Playoff competition at its best,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra called it, and that was after his team lost.
So who backs down first?
The Eastern Conference finals have been a swaying exercise in damage control. Last game’s loser goes back to the laboratory, makes adjustments, then turns into the next game’s winner. So now it’s the Heat’s turn to answer. The box score from Indiana’s 99-92 Game 4 victory will tell them where to start; a 50-32 shellacking by the Pacers in the paint.
“Can’t happen,” LeBron James said. Other things can’t happen for the Heat, either. James fouling out, for instance.
Miami figures to feel the urgency at home in Game 5, as Indiana did in Game 4. Back and forth it goes, dead earnest and dead even.
“We know the feel of that,” Paul George said. “The pressure’s on them a little bit. We know they’re going to come out and play at another level.”
Clearly, the Heat understand how to respond to defeat. They haven’t lost two in a row since early January, 61 games ago.
“I don’t think we’re worried about streaks,” George Hill said.
So who hits the wall first?
They have to be tired. They have to be hurting. But both sides are sure they can win, and that is what drives them to the end.
“We don’t need confidence to go into any game,” James said of any boost needed for Thursday night. “We’re a confident bunch.”