Sun Sentinel Columnist
12:03 AM EDT, June 2, 2013
INDIANAPOLIS — Down a hallway, down under Bankers Life Fieldhouse, down, down, down where the Heat's emotions resided, Heat President Pat Riley stood against a wall and said, "We'll be fine. I really believe that."
Belief. That's the emotion this season teeters on for the Heat. That's what Saturday night's confidence-shaking loss to Indiana, 91-77, in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals did.
Couldn't shoot. Didn't defend. Wouldn't play together. Squabbled in the locker room, with Dwyane Wade saying he didn't get the ball enough.
And so back to South Florida this tied series goes. Back for Game 7 on Monday night in AmericanAirlines Arena. Back for the ultimate game between two teams in any sport.
Win, and go to the NBA Finals.
Lose, and go home.
"This is what we won 66 games for [this regular season]," Riley said. "For this homecourt advantage in Game 7."
The Heat are the most fascinating team in sports, a team built around basketball's best player in LeBron James that's made the past two NBA Finals. But a team like this — talented, savvy and veteran — shouldn't deliver a big game like this rotten egg.
The Heat shouldn't get run off the court by Indiana in the third quarter when they're one win from the NBA Finals. They shouldn't lose their way for long stretches and play with the kind of focus reserved for a meaningless night in January.
The snapshot of the night was LeBron so frustrated by a foul call that went against him that he sprinted from one end of the court to the other.
"No-o-o!" he yelled as he ran.
We don't see something like that often from him. But when we do, it tells a bigger story.
The Heat were slapped with two technical fouls by the referees on the play. Indiana's nine-point lead stretched to 11. But then you could stack that up like firewood on the Heat's night.
On successive plays early in the third quarter, Wade, and then Mario Chalmers, missed uncontested layups. Just flat missed them. Layups. Back-to-back. That never happens in the NBA.
It happened Saturday night. It kept happening to the Heat, too. Udonis Haslem had a rebound, looked for someone to pass to and … fell out of bounds. Chalmers came through the lane, put up a shot and … air ball.
Where was the Heat effort? The passion? Where, seriously, were Wade and Chris Bosh?
Wade was saying his 3-for-11 shooting and 10-point game were a product of not getting the ball enough. Oh. That's a nice time to bring that up.
And Bosh? He spoke softly after his five-point, four-rebound game, so softly you had to move close just to hear him.
"Everything's hard right now for me,'' he said. "This year's been a struggle. But if you want to win, you have to come back. You have to get through this."
The Big Three isn't even mentioned as an entity anymore. LeBron, more and more, has to shoulder everything for this team to have a chance. He had 29 points Saturday to go with seven rebounds and six assists.
The idea of a single star carrying a team to a title is a myth, as LeBron discovered in Cleveland, as the Heat have one more game to prevent in Miami.
Give credit to Indiana. "Blue collar, golden swagger" is the motto the Pacers have taken to this year, and it's playing out this series against the Heat.
And so everyone takes their talents to South Beach for one more game. One more night. One more chance for one of these teams to decide they're just enough to be better.
Riley folded a stat sheet and put it in his inside suit pocket. "We'll be fine,'' he said, walking away, each step taking him closer to Monday's Game 7.
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