Heat 103, Pacers 102 F/OT (Heat take 1-0 lead)
What a way to start the Eastern Conference Finals. This game was close throughout, as Indiana led by five at the break but by just one after three. With 8:36 left, a LeBron James layup tied the game at 72, and the Heat were either tied or in the lead for the rest of regulation.
With under a minute left, a tough David West bucket knotted the score at 89 before Dwyane Wade gave the Heat the lead again. A Paul George miss and subsequent trip to the line for Ray Allen seemed like it would spell the end of the line for the Pacers. But Allen split his free throws, to give Indy a chance. With nearly no time left, George drained an absurdly deep three, and the game headed to OT.
Indy led by three with 2:10 left in the extra period, but didn’t score again until for two minutes. In that time, Miami managed to take a two-point lead. The Pacers again had their backs against the wall, but Wade fouled George on a three-point try and George calmly knocked down all three freebies with 2.2 ticks left. But, as you know by now, LeBron ripped the hearts out of Pacers fans and Heat haters alike with an all-too-easy layup as time expired.
Heat 103, Pacers 102.
The MVP finished with a triple double—30 points, 10 boards and 10 dimes. He hit a pair of treys and rejected three shots. D-Wade (19 in 41 minutes) and Chris Bosh (17) were solid, and Birdman Andersen was awesome. He hit all seven of his attempts from the field as well as two free throws, and finished with 16 points, 5 boards and 3 blocks.
The Pacers, as they often do, got a strong, balanced effort from their guys. George (27) and West (26) led the team in scoring. Roy Hibbert was great with 19 points and 9 boards while keeping Bosh (2 rebounds) off the glass. George Hill and Lance Stephenson combined to shoot just 4-of-19, but also tallied 16 rebounds, 10 assists and 8 steals.
The Pacers did everything right. They won the rebounding battle, forced 21 turnovers and held the Heat to 5-of-18 shooting from deep. George and West were massively clutch, but ultimately it just wasn’t enough. The loss will be blamed largely on coach Frank Vogel, who left Hibbert on the bench during the last play, opting to stick Sam Young on Chris Bosh. Perhaps if Hibbert was on the floor he could have altered LeBron’s game-winner, but Miami wisely kept Bosh in the corner on the final play, which prevented any Pacers’ bigs from helping around the rim on such a quick play—it’s hardly a guarantee that Hibbert would have saved the game for Indy.
Teams have bounced back from heart-breakers in this postseason before—Golden State winning Game 2 against the Spurs after blowing Game 1 and the Nets winning Game 5 after their epic Game 4 collapse in Chicago come to mind—and the Pacers will have a chance to do just that on Friday night.–Leo Sepkowitz