In a move to get the hometown crowd excited about the Indiana Pacers in their first home game against the Miami Heat in round two, the Pacers followed the motto of most playoff teams these days and draped every chair at Bankers Life Fieldhouse with a free shirt in attempt to drown out the various Heat fans that would show up to game three.
The effect of 18,165 tees that expressed the motto "Gold Swagger" had a staggering effect on the fans, which surprisingly had very little black, red, or white shirts come tip-off, and the players in the game.
"I hadn't seen it like this since I've been here, fans going crazy. Just thankful so many fans came out to support us. The energy early was so off the charts I lost my breath at about 2 minutes. I don't think I've ever been that tired, so much adrenaline was running through us."
The raucous crowd, which Indiana point guard George Hill referenced it being a crowd "from the old says", helped lift the Indiana Pacers to another level Thursday night in a 94-75 victory over the Miami Heat.
The fans also helped Indiana's All-Star in center Roy Hibbert play like a man on a mission.
"The game was won once again with defense and rebounding," said Pacers Head Coach Frank Vogel. "That's what this team's identity is about, led by Roy Hibbert who anchored our team with five blocked shots, 19 points, and 18 boards. It's of the best games I've ever seen him play."
Hibbert's play being the best the team had seen him play was the overall consensus from the Pacers locker room after Indiana took the 2-1 series lead as the big man took advantage of a smaller Miami Heat line-up. With Eastern Conference All-Star Chris Bosh out indefinitely in the series after spraining his abdomen in game one, Miami Heat Head Coach Erik Spoelstra went with Dexter Pittman at the center position (0 points in 3:29 minutes played) and Shane Battier at the power forward position (0 for 7 shooting). Hibbert made the Heat pay from the get go, scoring eight points alone in the first quarter as Roy crashed the boards for second-chance opportunities, had his baby jump-hook fall from all over the floor, and dominated on the defensive side of the ball.
"My primary focus, coach told me going into this series and the last series, was defense," said HIbbert. I've embraced that role. I let the offense come to me and try to bean anchor of the paint and make things difficult for the other team."
The stat-sheet looked very familiar to one of Hibbert's role models, one that also won a playoff game Thursday night with 18 points and 5 rebounds," in San Antonio Spurs power forward and NBA living legend Tim Duncan. The four-time champion has taken Hibbert under his wing as of late, and Hibbert has been responding with an intense attitude towards the game, a long with improved results on the court.
"I had a roller coaster first three years in terms of my career," said the first time All-Star Hibbert.
"I worked out with Tim Duncan on more than just basketball stuff We sat down and talked to see how he goes about his business. His kind of demeanor is he doesn't get too high or too low. I model my game after him. He texts me after every game, and I'm very appreciative."
Hibbert would go on to talk about how great the fans were on Thursday night, saying the atmosphere was "the best he had seen" as a Pacer and that he hopes "every night can be like that from now on".
The fans also hope Hibbert can play like the dominant center he can be every night like he did in game three as well.
Wade's historically bad night
Game three's main story from Thursday night was how effective Indiana's defense was at stopping Miami shooting guard Dwyane Wade from ever getting into an offensive rhythm. Wade finished with five total points on the game, the lowest of his career in 95 playoff games, as the superstar finished 2-13 from the field.
Wade's lack of scoring and frustration led to a confrontation with Miami Head Head Coach Erik Spoelstra in the third quarter, but much of his anger can be attributed to the spectacular job that Paul George did to contain Wade all game long.
"Paul George is one of the top five most versatile defenders in the NBA," gushed Pacers Head Coach Frank Vogle.
"He's doing a great job on Wade. Wade had an off night. When he did get free, he didn't kock down shots. We can't give Paul all the credit. He's (Wade) too good of a player to have shooting nights like he had tonight. But Paul is just competing and growing by the day. We're just happy as what his future looks like."