INDIANAPOLIS – Once again, they were going to need to cash in that home floor advantage card again a little early in these playoffs.
Even if had been lost mostly after a miserable weekend in Miami.
After needing to use their home floor advantage to defeat Atlanta in Game 7 of their first-round series, the Pacers would once again have to bring their best at Bankers Life Fieldhouse just to keep their season alive. After being run past in Game 3 and 4 in Miami, these once confident Pacers now were in the crosshairs of a poised Heat team looking to go to its fourth straight NBA Finals.
But in the end the Pacers managed to keep their season alive, falling behind then getting ahead and hanging on for a hard-fought 93-90 victory in Game 5. Miami still has a 3-2 series lead and can still clinch the series with a victory in Game 6 at home on Friday night at 8:30 p.m.
Paul George led the way for the Pacers with a game-high 37 points as he helped the Pacers jump out to a fourth quarter lead while LeBron James was forced to the bench for half the game with foul trouble. His hot shooting helped the Pacers take as much as an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter before Indiana held off a late Heat charge.
Chris Bosh had a chance to win the game for Miami with five seconds left and the Pacers up by two, but his corner three-pointer was off the mark as the two-time defending NBA champions will be forced to play at least one more game against their challengers.
In the end it was Bosh who led the Heat with 20 points while James was held to just 7 after he picked up his fifth foul early in the third quarter. Lance Stephenson had a lot to do with that as his tenacious defense and 12 points scored helped him rebound from a subpar Game 4 performance. David West also chipped in 19 points for the Pacers.
As both the Pacers and the Heat may have expected, the home team came out with the early punch on Wednesday evening. An aggressive Roy Hibbert was able to create some paint presence and his defense helped to keep a hot Miami offense in check for the first 20 minutes as he had five rebounds and four points while the Pacers built up an eight-point lead.
But the Pacers saw a sign of things to come at the end of the quarter when Dwyane Wade knocked down a jumper just before time expired in the corner to cut the Pacers’ lead to 22-16.
The Heat exploded in the second quarter despite the fact that James was hindered by foul trouble as he picked up three in the quarter. With Ray Allen leading the way with ten points off the bench, Miami outscored Indiana 26-11 in the second and took a 42-33 lead into the break.
But in the third quarter things got interesting as James picked up his fourth and fifth fouls, putting him on the bench for the rest of the quarter. The Pacers took advantage by turning the tables on the second quarter and outscoring the Heat 31-15 in the 12-minute period, which was capped off by a last-second George three-pointer, to put the Pacers up 64-57 after three quarters.
It appeared that the Pacers would cruise to victory when George hit another shot with 8:52 to play–but that’s when Miami stormed back with James in the lineup. The forward actually tied the game up at 81 with 3:50 to go, but George twice answered with three-pointers to put Indiana up by four.
The game appeared to be over when George Hill had a breakaway layup with 23 seconds left, but James darted down the court to block it. Rashard Lewis then knocked down his sixth three-pointer of the game to get the Heat to within one and it was just two after the Pacers missed two-of-three at the other end.
With under ten seconds left, James drove down the lane but instead of shooting kicked it out to Bosh, who had a look from the corner. His shot was off target and the rebound came to the Pacers who lived to play another day–just barely.