8:00 PM ET, March 26, 2014
Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN
INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana took every shot Miami could muster Wednesday night.
Then the Pacers threw a couple of their own punches -- and put the two-time defending champs on the mat.
Paul George scored 23 points, Roy Hibbert added 21 and Indiana rallied from a seven-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat the Heat 84-83, taking a three-game lead over Miami in the chase of the Eastern Conference's top seed.
Since 2003, the two teams in the Eastern finals have entered March 26 as No. 1 and No. 2 in the conference eight times, including last season. The Heat and Pacers are again the East's top two teams this season.
Eastern Conference Finals Matchups
|Season||Matchup||1-2 on 3/26*|
|* Win pct. in Eastern Conf. standings|
-- ESPN Stats & Information
"They're the champs, they're going to bring out the best in us," said David West, who made a 3-pointer with 50.2 seconds to go. "They bring out the best in anybody. I thought we just had enough fight."
It was one of those rare grudge matches that actually lived up to the billing.
Before the game, the teams chided one another with dueling comments. Afterward, nobody was ready to make up. And in between, the action got downright nasty.
Pacers center Roy Hibbert finished the game despite taking an elbow to the face that left him so groggy he didn't even remember getting hit.
James and George both wound up taking spills into basket supports, and Lance Stephenson was ejected midway through the fourth quarter after picking up his second technical foul for celebrating a basket. The angry Stephenson waved his hand at the ref and after leaving the court, threw a towel and kicked a door. Coach Frank Vogel was not amused, saying he had a stern talk with his budding star guard before he went home.
But it typified a rugged night for Miami (48-22).
"It is what it is, they ref the game, we play it," James said.
The NBA's best home team ended a two-game losing streak, took a 2-1 lead in the season series and now has the inside track to home-court advantage with just 10 games to play.
And (52-20) Indiana still managed to do all of that on a night James seemed to be at his best.
The four-time MVP finished with 38 points, eight rebounds, five assists, was 9 of 15 from the field and 14 of 15 from the free throw line.
The problem: James also had six turnovers, Wade had six more turnovers and Miami managed only one basket over the final 3 minutes, 23 seconds. James and Bosh both missed late jumpers that would have given Miami the lead, the last an airball by Bosh from just right of the top of the key as time expired.
"Unfortunately, that was what I diagramed," coach Erik Spoelstra said. "It probably wasn't the best call. It might have been a little too gunslinger on my part. I just wanted an open shot."
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They were so hard to come by Wednesday night that James was even called for a flagrant foul when he drove to the basket and sent the 7-foot-2, 290-pound Hibbert crashing to the ground. When Hibbert got up, he stumbled. Eventually he had to leave the court to change his blood-spattered jersey, but he refused to sit against the Heat.
Hibbert dominated the first half yet again, scoring 17 points.
But when the Heat decided to make things tough on Hibbert in the second half, George and his teammates took advantage.
George spurred the first fourth-quarter run with two monster dunks -- one over the hand of a trailing James -- to get the Pacers back in the game.
Later, it was Evan Turner, the trade deadline acquisition, who delivered two of Indiana's biggest baskets of the night. The first came after James' final turnover, on a breakaway layup. The second came courtesy of Mario Chalmers' turnover out of bounds. When the middle of the court opened up, Turner bolted through a clear path for an 81-80 lead with 90 seconds to go.
"I know how to get my space, I've been doing that forever, you know what I mean?" Turner said, likely adding another spark to a rivalry that needs none. "Some of my moves I've been doing since I was a little kid, so I can walk a pretty fine line when it comes to that."
After Hibbert made 1 of 2 free throws, Turner scored on the layups, West hit the knockout 3 and all Miami got was a 3 from Bosh with 2.9 seconds left.
"They're a tough team, psychologically against most teams they have the edge," West said. "They've got the best player in the game. Their pedigree, their entire organization, you understand what you're going to get."
Indiana has won its first back-to-back division titles since 1998-99 and 1999-2000. ... The Heat are now 7-8 in March. ... The Pacers and Heat meet again April 11 in Miami.
INDIANAPOLIS - MARCH 26: David West #21 of the Indiana Pacers signs his sneakers before the game against the Miami...(Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)
Around The Association
MVP: Even though it was in a losing effort, LeBron James was -- by far -- the best player on the floor. He put the Heat on his back (38 points, eight rebounds, five assists), but it wasn't enough.
Defining moment: With the Pacers leading 84-83 with 1.8 seconds left -- after George Hill missed two free throws -- the Heat had a chance to win the game, but Chris Bosh missed a jumper, and Indiana escaped with a victory.
That was awesome: In a battle between the two best teams in the Eastern Conference, with both vying for the No. 1 seed, this game lived up to the hype. It was physical, and it went down to the wire.
Next 5 Games
LeBron James scored 14 points on drives Wednesday, his most against the Pacers the past two seasons (including playoffs). Despite the success, once James committed the flagrant foul on Roy Hibbert, he was unable to finish.[+]
LeBron James went 1-3 FG with 3 points in clutch time on Wednesday vs the Pacers. Since his 61 point game on March 3rd, James has not been effective in clutch situations. In fact, nearly half of his clutch time points in that span are from the free throw line (10 of 21 points).[+]
LeBron James in Clutch Time
LeBron outscored the Heat's other starters by 8 against the Pacers, and nearly outscored the rest of his entire team by himself. He also outscored Wade and Bosh by 15.[+]
Heat Wednesday vs Pacers
LeBron James 2-for-5 in the 4th quarter Wednesday night and is only shooting 33.3 percent in the 4th quarter against the Pacers this season. One reason why? He's not as effective in the paint as in the first three quarters.[+]
LeBron James By Quarter vs Pacers - This Season
David West just hit his 4th 3-pointer of the season to extend the Pacers lead to 84-80. He entered the shot 3-12 on 3s this season, and 43-169 in his career (25%).
Paul George scored 11 of his 23 points when guarded by LeBron James Wednesday. George struggled against James in their first two meetings, scoring 11 points in the two games combined.[+]
People may talk about the decision to have Chris Bosh take the final shot instead of LeBron James, but he might have been the best choice, considering his performance in such situations since he and LeBron joined the Heat. These numbers are ENTERING the game, so before the final play was drawn up.[+]
Benches often shorten come playoff time, and tonight's game between the Heat and Pacers certainly had a playoff atmosphere. Fittingly the Pacers' starters outscored their bench by 74 points as Frank Vogel called on his reserves for 25 fewer minutes than usual.[+]
No Relief - Pacers' Bench vs Heat
The Pacers shut down the paint for the Heat in the second half Wednesday, holding the Heat to just 10 points in the paint. LeBron James had 10 paint points in the first half alone (and only 4 in the second half).[+]
Heat Shooting Inside the Paint
LeBron went 2-2 from the field in the 4th quarter on Monday, totaling 6 points in a win over the Trail Blazers. But since scoring a career-high 61 points against Charlotte on March 3rd, James has shot just 38.2 percent in the 4th quarter.[+]
LeBron James FG pct By Quarter - Following 61-Point Game on March 3rd
This is LeBron's first 30-point game against the Pacers (regular season) since January 4th, 2012...he had gone 8 straight against them scoring under 30. According to Elias it was 1 game shy of James' longest such streak against any NBA team.
The Heat and Pacers enter tomorrow night's matchup with identical 7-7 records in March. Both teams have four games remaining in the month (including Wednesday night) and if they have aspirations of winning an NBA title this season, it would benefit them to finish over .500 in March. Since 1970, only FOUR NBA teams have finished March with a record of .500 or below and gone on to win the title that season: the 1969-70 Knicks, 1972-73 Knicks, 1976-77 Trail Blazers and 1994-95 Rockets.[+]
Worst March W-L Since 1970 - Among Teams to Win NBA Title That Season
Since Evan Turner's first game with the Pacers (Feb. 25th), Indiana has been outscored by 5.4 points per 48 minutes with him on the court while its outscored teams by 3.5 points with him off the court. The defense is clearly going through an adjustment period as the Pacers are allowing 7.1 more points per 48 minutes with Turner on the floor.[+]
Pacers With Evan Turner On/Off Court - Since Turner's Debut Feb. 25th
In Game 7 of the Conference Finals, the home team is 12-2 in the past 30 years and is 16-6 all-time. HOWEVER... The home team's win percentage in the Conference Finals is lower than in all rounds before the Conference Finals, AND lower than in the NBA Finals. So, it will matter less in the Eastern Conference Finals than in every other round.[+]
Home Team Win Pct in Game 7 - NBA Postseason History
From Elias: The Pacers have been tied or have held sole possession of 1st place in the Eastern Conference all season. The last 2 teams to go wire-to-wire atop a Conference were the 2007-08 Celtics and 2008-09 Lakers. Both of those teams went on to win the NBA title.
These teams are almost dead even the past 2 seasons...[+]
Heat and Pacers Head-to-Head - Past 2 Seasons Including Playoffs
Indiana is holding opponents to a league-low 52.9 percent shooting in the restricted area. The Heat, meanwhile, shoot a league-best 68.4 percent from that range, a number that is driven up by LeBron James, who shoots a league-leading 78.7 percent in that area. Just how important is it for the Pacers to keep LeBron away from the basket? Since scoring a career-high 61-points against Charlotte on March 3rd, James is just 13-50 (26.0 percent) on field goal attempts outside the restricted area. He's 23-35 (65.7 percent) in the restricted area during that span.
Miami is currently in 2nd-place in the Eastern Conference, just 1 game back of Indiana in the loss column for the top spot. The Pacers have been adamant they want home-court advantage this postseason after losing Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals in Miami last year. Home teams are 91-23 all-time in Game 7s (.798 win pct) and the Heat are just 1-5 in road games against the Pacers dating back to the start of last season (including playoffs).[+]
Miami Heat - vs Pacers By Location Last 2 Seasons
With 13 points, tonight is Roy Hibbert's 5th-highest scoring game since the All-Star Break (we're only through the 1st quarter)
Paul George is averaging just 18.9 points on 37.7 percent shooting in March after entering the month averaging 22.6 points on 44.0 percent from the field. Could George be wearing down? According to NBA.com player-tracking data, George has traveled 180.2 miles this season, 4th most by any player.[+]
The Heat won the last meeting between these teams in South Beach on December 18th, 97-94. In the 17 minutes that LeBron was on the court with Hibbert on the bench, LeBron took advantage - totaling 18 points while getting to the line 7 times. In the 19 minutes James and Hibbert were on the floor together, James was limited to just 6 points and failed to get to the charity stripe.[+]
Roy Hibbert's 13 first-quarter points already surpass his scoring average in 19 games since the break (9.3 PPG).
ESPN Stats & Information
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