INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana thought it had taken control Tuesday night. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade stole it right back. The four-time MVP and perennial All-Star did what they always seem to — bail out the Heat in a desperate moment.
This time, the two All-Stars spurred a decisive 12-2 fourth-quarter spurt that led Miami past Indiana 87-83 to tie the Eastern Conference series at 1-1 Tuesday in Indiana.
“We’re very confident coming down the stretch because we believe in our defense,” Wade said.
Wade scored 10 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter and James scored 12 of his 22 during the same 12-minute stretch. Together, they combined for Miami’s final 20 points and all but three of the Heat’s 25 points in the quarter — just enough to avoid falling into a 2-0 hole for the first time since the first round of the 2010 playoffs.
Miami has won 11 straight postseason games following a loss, a span covering 40 playoff games without back-to-back losses. This one was probably their toughest yet.
“Today was just about how bad we want it,” Wade said. “This wasn’t about Xs and Os. It was just about how bad do we want to win this game. We proved it. We showed it.”
The Heat can take advantage of their opportunity as the series shifts to Miami for Game 3 on Saturday.
Frustrated Indiana had plenty of chances, too.
After wiping out a 41-37 halftime deficit and building a 63-56 lead late in the third quarter, the Pacers allowing James to find Chris Bosh and Norris Cole for open 3s that made it 63-62.
After the Pacers rebuilt a 73-69 lead midway through the fourth quarter and had a chance to extend it, Roy Hibbert missed a 12-foot jumper. James and Wade dominated the rest of the game.
Indiana’s Lance Stephenson tied his playoff career high with 25 points. Paul George had 14.
But it’s the third straight series Indiana has lost home-court advantage in either Game 1 or 2 after fighting hard to get the top seed in the East and they know it won’t be easy getting it back.
“We’ve got to go on their floor and take a game the same way they did,” George said. “We gave this one away, so we have to work even harder on their floor.”
If James has anything to say about it, the Heat won’t give up anything easy.
“It’s not going to be pretty, not in the Eastern Conference,” James said. “It’s never pretty basketball in the Eastern Conference. It’s about who can sustain runs, you know, who can get defensive stops, who can not turn the ball over and who can get great shots. I think we did that in the fourth.”
At times, the rough-and-tumble night took on the aura of a football game, especially late.
When George and Wade collided chasing a loose ball, both came up grimacing, Wade holding his left knee. George said afterward he had blurred vision and may have blacked out. Coach Frank Vogel would not confirm George’s description.
Another time, James crashed hard to the floor when David West was called for a flagrant one foul in the fourth quarter, which was changed to a common foul following a replay review.
There were hard picks, tight defense and James and Wade back in their old groove. Yet the Pacers were still in control with less than 7 minutes to go.
“We were winning the whole night,” guard George Hill said. “We controlled the whole game until the last couple minutes.”
Miami did it the hard way.
Wade kept things close in the first half and the defense that allowed 107 points in Game 1 limited the Pacers to nine points during a 10-minute stretch in the first half and closed it by allowing just 10 points over the final 7:19.
James hit a 3 to cut Indiana’s lead to 73-72 and, after Hibbert answered with a 6-foot hook shot, James scored six straight to start the decisive spurt.
“I needed to do something in the fourth,” James said. “I did a great job in the third quarter of attacking and getting my guys some open looks. I hit Cole for two 3s, hit CB for a 3 but I needed to make a few buckets as well to help us in the fourth quarter and I was able to come through for us.”