NBA PLAYOFFS: Pacers tie series with Heat
MIAMI — David West punched two passes from LeBron James away in the final minute, then punched the air.
He had plenty of reason to celebrate.
The Eastern Conference finals are tied, and home-court advantage now belongs to West and the Indiana Pacers.
Roy Hibbert scored a postseason career-high 29 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, West broke up two passes by James for huge turnovers, and the Pacers evened the East title series at a game apiece with a 97-93 victory over the Miami Heat in Game 2 on Friday night.
“We haven’t done anything yet,” Hibbert said. “We haven’t closed the series out. We won one game. A lot of us feel we should be up 2-0.”
Paul George scored 22 points, George Hill added 18 and West finished with 13 for the Pacers, who handed the Heat just their fourth loss in their last 50 games, closed the game on a 13-5 run — and denied one of the game’s best playmakers in James twice in the final moments to finish it off.
“There’s only like one person that’s more scarier than that,” Hill said, speaking of James. “And that’s, you know, God.”
The series resumes with Game 3 on Sunday night in Indianapolis.
“It’s one of the best basketball games I’ve ever been a part of,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “It wasn’t about LeBron making mistakes down the stretch. He played one of the best basketball games I’ve ever seen anybody play. We were just able to make a couple plays late in the game.”
More specifically, West made a couple plays late in the game.
“These are two close, competitive games that can go either way,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We had our opportunities. Enough opportunities.”
With Indiana up 95-93, West intercepted a pass that James was throwing to Ray Allen with 43 seconds left. Indiana didn’t cash in that mistake, instead turning the ball over with a shot-clock violation.
So on the next Miami trip, West denied James — who led all scorers with 36 points — again.
James drove to the right block, spun and tried passing out toward the perimeter. West got his right hand on that pass, knocking it off-course and into the hands of Hill, then extended his hand skyward.
The Pacers — just as they did in the second-round series last year — knew they were winning Game 2 in Miami. Hill made two free throws with 8.3 seconds left to clinch it, and just like that, the series was tied.
Game 1, Miami won it with James coming through at the end.
Game 2, the Pacers simply took away the MVP’s opportunity.
“We’ve been able to maintain our composure throughout the year,” West said. “That’s helped us throughout these playoffs and especially in environments like these.”
The Heat got 17 points from Chris Bosh and 14 from Dwyane Wade. The Heat led 88-84 in the fourth quarter, only to let the lead, the game and the home-court edge slip away, and James had almost an expressionless look afterward.
“Nothing broke down,” Wade said. “He’s going to be hard on himself. He saw guys open, but West was able to get his arms out there at the last moment.”
Lance Stephenson scored 10 for the Pacers.