Miami's Ray Allen, shown handling the ball against Indiana's… (Mike Ehrmann / Getty Images )
INDIANAPOLIS — The reality is that this is what the Indiana Pacers do. They run three-point shooters off the three-point line or make them take attempts under duress. And it's not just in the playoffs.
For Miami Heat three-point specialists Ray Allen and Shane Battier, their struggles in these NBA Eastern Conference finals are nothing new against the Pacers, who host Game 3 on Sunday evening at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
At one for six on three-pointers in this series, Allen is now two for 15 this season on three-pointers against the Pacers, when factoring in the teams' three regular-season meetings.
Then there's Battier, who is zero for six on three-pointers in these opening two games and three for 17 against Indiana for the season.
"I think the outside shot isn't there for the guys who have been hitting all year for a couple of reasons, the rhythm," said forward LeBron James, with the best-of-seven series now tied 1-1. "We have to figure out a way to get our shooters into the game more instead of trying to get them the ball and make them make a tough one late in the game for Ray or from [Mario Chalmers] or from Shane.
"We have to figure out how to get them some shots early in the game, where they feel like they're part of the offense."
James said it has to be a collective effort from himself, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to create the space for the shooters to regain confidence.
"We're the three guys that have the ball in our hands a lot, try to get our shooters in the game early," James said.
"We know they've been there for us all year. We're going to continue to have confidence in them. We know it'll help us out a lot."
Instead, the Heat often has turned to its three-point shooters with the shot clock winding down.
"I think having them a part of the flow offensively, they'll feel like they're part of the offense, they'll be there late for us," James said.
After two games decided by five total points, Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra said he would not be surprised if the balance of the series' games is as competitive.
In Game 1, the Heat held on for a 103-102 overtime victory on a driving layup by James. In Game 2, the Heat fell, 97-93, with James committing a pair of key late turnovers.
"These are the two best teams in the East," Spoelstra said before giving his team Saturday off. "There's not a big margin of error either way. So you have to be able to finish. Both games are up for grabs going down the stretch. And we had leads in both of them. So we just have to go back, collect ourselves, and get ready for Game 3."
The pressure now shifts to the Heat, with the next two on the Pacers' home court.
"We just stay even-keeled," James said. "We don't get too high; we don't get too low in the series. We know we're going to go into a hostile environment against a very good team, and we look forward to the challenge."
The ability to close has defined the series' first two games. Spoelstra doesn't see that changing.
"We probably think we should have gotten both games; they probably think the same thing. That's inconsequential," Spoelstra said. "It's Game 3 and it's likely to be another competitive game, you go down the stretch and you have to find ways to finish.
"We pride ourselves in finishing. Particularly when we have leads, to be able to finish. We just weren't able to do it. So we have to go back to the drawing board and get ready for Game 3."