After a thrilling Game 1 that went the Heat’s way with a last-second LeBron James layup in overtime, Indiana knew they were capable of a challenging performance and even able to upset Miami in their home court.
It took a 29-point night from Roy Hibbert and two critical James turnovers in the closing minute of the game for the Pacers to tie the Eastern Conference Finals and steal home court advantage from the defending champions.
Hibbert added 10 rebounds to his dominant performance for the Pacers, who got another 22 points from Paul George. George Hill added another 18 points and David West finished with 13 points to complete a solid performance for Indiana and hand the Heat only their 4th loss in their last 50 games.
For the Miami Heat, Lebron James had another great performance with 36 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals, spoiled by two huge last minutes turnovers while Miami was down by just two points. With the game at 95-93 James threw a pass to the wide open Ray Allen with 42 seconds to go, David West though was there to intercept it. Although that could have been the clinching possession by Indiana, they couldn’t get a shot off and Miami defense forced a 24 second violation.
In the very next possession, James had his hands on the ball, drive to his right and once again saw Allen wide open, this time trying to pass the ball through the lane to him, but it was David West again who was there to deflect the pass.
Miami had to foul, Hill made both free throws and just like that the game was over.
“It was very disappointing for me, of course,” LeBron James said. “The first thing I look on my stats sheet it my turnovers and I had two key ones at a big part of the game.”
David West played great defense in those two possessions and the Pacers may have gotten a bit lucky as Dwyane Wade couldn’t hold on to the ball and pass it down court before the shot clock expires for Indiana to Mario Chalmers who would almost certainly would have tied the game.
Wade finished the game with 14 points and Chris Bosh also played well for Miami, with 17 points. The Heat seemed a little tired and maybe not completely focused on their game, especially in the first half, while Indiana played great defense and seemed to choose almost always the right plays offensively. Roy Hibbert seemed unguardable, making 6 of his 8 shots in the first half for a total of 19 points.
Indiana led by as many as 13 points in the second quarter, before James scored 2 free throws and Mike Miller, who played the last 3 minutes of the half as Shane Battier and Ray Allen continued to struggle from the perimeter, beat the intermission buzzer with a three pointer to make it a 47-53 Miami deficit.
The Heat came out stronger in the second half and would respond to the Pacers run, tying the game 3 times in the third quarter, but Indiana had an answer to all of Miami’s efforts. With the game tied at 60, Indiana scored 7 of the next 10 points. With the game tied at 69, Paul George quickly responded with a lay-up and then again with a jumper with the game tied at 69.
With 5 seconds to go in the third, James connected with a 3-pointer and then exchanged words with Paul George, slapping each other’s hand afterwards in a moment of respect between the two players.
The game would be decided in the end once again.
LeBron James scored 10 of Miami’s 19 points in the final quarter and Miami got to a rare lead in the game with the score at 88-84, but after that the Heat were outscored 13-5 the rest of the way. James’ effort to carry his team once again to a close victory ended after his two turnovers in the closing moments.
The Heat face a lost home court advantage for the second time in this year’s playoffs and for the second time against Indiana the last two years as the series resume on Sunday night, in Indianapolis.