INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – Indiana treated Round 1 with Miami like it was a championship event. Now it’s time to get ready for the rematch.Roy Hibbert controlled the middle, scoring 24 points, and Paul George scored 15 of his 17 points during a second-half scoring spree that helped the surging Pacers pull away late from the two-time defending champion Heat 90-84 Tuesday, a night Indiana didn’t come close to playing its best.
The win also gave Indiana a three-game lead over the Heat (16-6) in the Eastern Conference chase for home-court advantage and extended their franchise-best home start to 10-0. As for the schedule, it’s not getting much tougher.
After holding four-time MVP LeBron James to nine points and 3 of 11 shooting over the final three quarters, the Pacers play get back-to-back home games against Charlotte and Detroit before heading to Miami on Dec. 18. They’ll host Houston two days later and then play 12 consecutive games against teams currently under .500.
But it’s that rematch that everyone wants to see. Win that one and the Pacers will assure themselves of no worse than a season split and Miami (16-6) have a better sense of what they’ll have to do next week, too.
It looked a lot like last season’s Eastern Conference finals, which Miami won in seven games. James’ defense and Miami’s physical double-teams frustrated George most of the night but when George finally got free in the second half, late, he made three big 3-pointers to help the Pacers pull away. George, the NBA’s No. 4 scorer, finished with 17 points, three rebounds and four assists.
While James, the league’s No. 2 scorer did get 17 points, 14 rebounds and six assists, he struggled uncharacteristically over the final 36 minutes – three quarters when Miami failed to top the 20-point mark. Wade also finished with 17 points, while Bosh added 12.
The Heat’s next game is at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at AmericanAirlines Arena.