Late Burst by James Helps Mi­ami Heat Even Play­off Se­ries

The Economic Times - - Sports -

Just when it looked as if the In­di­ana Pac­ers might have buried the mem­ory of their bouts of per­for­mance dys­func­tion, they were re­minded of an equally un­pleas­ant re­al­ity of their East­ern Con­fer­ence semi-fi­nal against Mi­ami. LeBron James, the best player in the world, plays for the other guys. And his side­kick, Dwyane Wade, seems to be at his health­i­est af­ter miss­ing 28 games dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son. Af­ter al­low­ing oth­ers on both teams to make sig­na­ture plays over three quar­ters, James erupted in the fourth for 12 of his 22 points, and Wade added 10 of his team-high 23 in car­ry­ing the Heat to a se­ries-lev­el­ling 87-83 vic­tory over the Pac­ers in Game 2 at Bankers Life Field­house. Game 3 will be played Satur­day in Mi­ami. With the game in the bal­ance, James and Wade com­bined to score 20 con­sec­u­tive points, with James erupt­ing for 9 straight and set­ting up two more with a steal dur­ing an 11-2 run that turned a 7369 Pac­ers lead into an 80-75 deficit with 3 min­utes 17 sec­onds to play. James recorded 22 points, 7 re­bounds and 6 as­sists, shred­ding In­di­ana’s nor­mally stout de­fense in al­most ev­ery imag­in­able way in the sec­ond half. He pen­e­trated the lane and kicked the ball out to open jump shoot­ers. He slipped away from de­fend­ers and moved with­out the ball for un­con­tested layups. He hit spirit-crush­ing jumpers and made the big­gest steal of the game, with a strip of Ge­orge Hill that cul­mi­nated with Wade putting back James’s missed layup for that 80-75 lead. “It was even the whole game, but then LeBron stepped up and made big plays,” said the Pac­ers’ Lance Stephen­son. The game was tough and tense, re­sem­bling the seven-game war of at­tri­tion the teams played in the con­fer­ence fi­nal last sea­son. The fourth quar­ter had two se­quences that made ev­ery­one wince. In the first, Paul Ge­orge stripped Wade, whose left knee col­lided with Ge­orge’s head as he scram­bled for the loose ball. Ge­orge was cleared to con­tinue, but af­ter the game, he com­plained of blurry vi­sion and said he would be re-ex­am­ined be­fore Game 3. Min­utes af­ter that col­li­sion, as James took over the game, he took a bounce pass from Wade and went in for a layup, only to be ham­mered out of bounds, face down, by David West. James was mo­tion­less for a few sec­onds but then picked his head up, slapped five with a fan and hit two free throws. It looked good for the Pac­ers early as they con­trolled the boards and the tempo. One se­quence il­lus­trated In­di­ana at its grind-it-out best, be­gin­ning with Ge­orge’s missed 16-foot jump shot. Roy Hib­bert tapped the re­bound out, and Ge­orge launched an­other jumper, this time miss­ing from 17 feet. Again Hib­bert got a hand on the ball, leading to Stephen­son nail­ing a 19-foot pull-up. But the Pac­ers has long had a pen­chant for scor­ing droughts. They had one in the sec­ond quar­ter that al­lowed the Heat to build an 8-point lead, and they went cold at the worst pos­si­ble time in the fourth quar­ter.

The New York Times

LeBron James

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