Pacers 93 – Heat 90 (Miami leads series 3-2)
The Pacers live to fight another day.
It took a sublime effort from Paul George. It took some questionable foul trouble for the game’s best player. It took surviving a barrage of unexpected 3-pointers. It took guts that no one thought the Pacers had.
But the Pacers fight on.
PG (37 points, 15-28 from the field, 5-14 from long range) went supernova in a wild second half when things got frantic. He poured in 31 points in the final two quarters, including 21 in the fourth alone, to carry Indiana to the season-saving win. Miami cut into the Pacers’ 11-point edge, pulling closer and closer, with Indy on the verge of folding with each blow the Heat landed. But each time, there was George, twisting and turning and pulling up and splashing jumpers to cool off every run. There were the baseline daggers, the breakaway dunks, the top-of-the-key pull ups over Dwyane Wade (18 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists), and biggest of all, two triples, both with the Heat within a point.
Of course, everyone is going to be talking about LeBron James (7 points, 2-10 shooting, 3 TOs, 5 fouls in 24 minutes), both what he did and didn’t do. One thing he really didn’t do much of? Play. James picked up three quick fouls and played just 10 minutes in the first half, although the Heat went into the break leading 42-33. By the 8:33 mark of the third, James had picked up two more questionable fouls and would be glued to the bench until well into the fourth. In the first 36 minutes of the game, James played just 14 of them.
Even without the King, Miami stayed in the game thanks to what Frank Vogel called ridiculous shot-making. They made 15 triples in all, but the Heat needed one more. After LeBron chased down George Hill to pick up one of the most important blocks of his career, the Heat had their chance to win. With the Pacers up a point, LeBron drove into heavy traffic and found Chris Bosh (20 points, 10 rebounds) in the corner. With a hand in his face, Bosh tossed the shot up but drew iron, sealing the result.
The Pacers got much better efforts from their key guys. David West (19 points, 7-11 shooting, 9 boards) played like the grown man he is and combined with PG to score Indy’s final 36 points. Lance Stephenson (12 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists) had the crowd and his team fired up after drawing LeBron’s fifth foul, as Indy took off on a 12-2 run, getting the Indiana crowd as live as it’s been all series. And despite getting embarrassed after talking trash to LeBron before the previous game, Lance could be spotted trying to jump into the Heat huddle or blowing in James’ ear during a stoppage.
Miami wasted a throwback from Rashard Lewis (18 points), who flashed back to his prime and hit six 3-pointers after going scoreless in the previous two games. Ray Allen shook loose for 15 points and three treys. DWade even got in on the act, knocking down two shots from long range after carrying the Heat offense for the long stretches without LeBron.
PG had some loud, expensive words about the officials after Game 4, but he got his wish on Wednesday. The Heat had a hard time getting any call; on top of Bron watching most of the game from the bench, Miami only earned eight trips to the line, compared to 22 for Indy. The officiating was sloppy all around—31 of the 40 fouls called were non-shooting, per ESPN’s Ethan Strauss.
Disregarding the leeway from the refs, the Pacers were back to their grinding best for much of the game. They seemed to have their hands everywhere, poking away countless lazy passes by the Heat, picking off 12 steals in total and racking up 21 points off Miami’s 17 turnovers.
The Pacers still have history standing in their way, but they gave themselves a chance. Game 6 is Friday night in Miami.