Late Burst by James Helps Miami Heat Even Playoff Series
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