MIAMI – Words, physicality, hard fouls, clutch shots and heroics.
That’s was just Game One in a nutshell. Imagine what could be if this Eastern Conference Finals series went the full seven games.
Indeed the first match-up in the conference championship series between the Pacers and the Heat went above and beyond even the most optimistic of basketball fans on Wednesday night. In overtime alone the team’s traded leads three times in the last 15 seconds, with Miami getting the last laugh with a LeBron James lay-up at the buzzer of the extra session to give the defending champions the first major punch in the series.
Then came the off day hype over two Heat fouls against the Pacers that were deemed by the receivers as intentional, adding just a little more intrigue an already hotly anticipated second game.
On Friday, the teams didn’t let down NBA fans as they once again delivered a competitive performance that came down to the final minutes again.
This time it was the Pacers who had the magic down the stretch, getting the lead late and holding on for the 97-93 win over the Heat to tie the series at 1-1.
Roy Hibbert led the Pacers with 29 points and ten rebounds while Paul George added 22. James had 36 for the Heat to lead all scorers but there would be no heroics tonight, as his turnover in the final ten seconds sealed a dramatic Indiana win.
Now the series shifts to Indianapolis where the Pacers will host the Heat in Game Three on Sunday evening at Bankers Life Fieldhouse with tip-off coming at 8:30 P.M.
Showing no signs of a hangover from what some players described as a devastating loss, the Pacers controlled the tempo for the better part of the first half. Hibbert, who was left out of the game’s final two defensive possession on Game One, showed his worth in the first quarter of Game Two with ten first quarter points to give Indiana a 28-22 lead after 12 minutes.
Despite a tight officiating crew-who called three technical fouls on the Pacers in three minutes in the second quarter-Indiana maintained control in the contest, taking advantage of a sloppy Heat team to take as much as a 13-point lead. Hibbert would stay strong to end the half finishing with 19 points, but a Mike Miller three at the buzzer had the Pacers lead down to six at the half.
James helped Miami make their move in the third quarter, getting the game to even at 60 with a lay-up with 7:09 to go. But the Pacers remain unshaken by a few Miami runs and a thunderous slam-and-foul by George with five seconds left to go in the third quarter helped the Pacers go back up by five.
Yet James cut into that just before the quarter buzzer with a three-pointer to cut the lead to two points and the Heat ran with the small bit of momentum. Chris Bosh’s three with 6:09 to go gave the Heat a game-high four point lead as the crowd began to fuel the team’s momentum.
Once again the Pacers rallied and then traded the lead with the Heat down the stretch. Indiana grabbed the lead with 48 seconds to go on a pair of George Hill free throws to take a 95-93 lead and David West got the steal on the next inbounds pass to give Indiana a chance to put it away.
A 24-second violation on the following possession, however, gave the ball back to Miami for another shot to win or tie the game. But this time James didn’t have the heroics as his pass in the lane was tipped and stolen by Hill. The guard would hit another two free throws to seal the victory and a tie in series.