The entire Miami Heat team, Ray Allen and Chris Bosh included, struggled mightily from beyond the arc for the entire game against the Indiana Pacers. But the pair each knocked down back-to-back treys late in the game to surge past their rivals and erase a 15-point deficit for the thrilling 97-94 victory.
The Pacers are now just two games ahead of the Heat in the Eastern Conference standings (and one game up on the loss column), dropping two straight for the first time this season after their surprising home loss to the Detroit Pistons. In what had to be their most frustrating loss of the season, the visitors were in control for almost the entire game despite foul trouble from Roy Hibbert and a quiet first half from Paul George. They continued to answer each Heat run in the second and third quarter to pump their lead to double-digits before the Heat finally broke through in the final quarter through a series of heart-stopping plays on both ends.
In the first half, the Pacers depth really shined with David West and Ian Mahinmi providing quality minutes in Hibbert's absence. Regardless, his presence around the rim gave the Heat tons of problems last week and they took advantage this time around. A poor decision from coach Frank Vogel to keep his All-Star big man out on the floor after getting his fourth foul very early in the third quarter proved costly. Bosh wisely went right at him right after and he was hit with his fifth foul and a seat on the bench until the fourth quarter.
Dwyane Wade was spectacular with a season-high 32 points, his first game scoring 30+ this season. In his best game this season, Wade was reliable from midrange and kept the Heat deficit at a manageable rate while LeBron sat at the start of the fourth quarter. Bosh had a nice quick start that was soon erased by foul trouble and he struggled until the second half, closing with 15 points and 8 rebounds along with some strong defensive sequences. LeBron might have appeared a bit hesitant to attack at the start of the game but his first two baskets were dunk on the way to yet another "almost" triple-double with 24 points, 9 rebounds and 7 rebounds.
Spoelstra elected to go with Birdman and Bosh down the stretch without the use for a point guard. The unusual lineup worked for the most part, though it did lead to an ugly sequence late in the game that ended with a Birdman jumper that could have cost them the game. Overall though, the Heat defense held their opponent to just 18 fourth quarter points and .438 field goal shooting for the game.
The champs missed nine three-pointers until four minutes left in the third quarter thanks to Norris Cole, with Rashard Lewis following with one of his own a minute later. LeBron then knocked one down early in the final quarter to cut the deficit to just three points.
George had a chance to tie the game at the end with a three-pointer but his off-balance attempt clanged off the rim. The Pacers complained after the game that LeBron had his hand on George's back.
The two best teams in the East won't meet again until March in Indiana.