James leads, Heat follow and Pacers pushed to brink

MIAMI. One quarter of the season’s most important game explained why five teams set aside their money in hope of signing LeBron James three summers ago. In that one quarter Thursday, the game’s greatest player turned a potential loss into a defining win.
After imploring the Heat to play better, LeBron James scored 19 in the second-half of Miami's victory. Net photo.
After imploring the Heat to play better, LeBron James scored 19 in the second-half of Miami's victory. Net photo.

Miami 90-79 Indiana
Heat lead series 3-2

MIAMI. One quarter of the season’s most important game explained why five teams set aside their money in hope of signing LeBron James three summers ago. In that one quarter Thursday, the game’s greatest player turned a potential loss into a defining win.

“That look I saw tonight is the same look I saw last year in Boston when our backs were against the wall,” said Udonis Haslem, who joined with James in leading Miami to its 90-79 win in Game 5 to seize a 3-2 lead in the Eastern finals.

“It’s not an expression, it’s not a smile, it’s not a frown, it’s not a grimace. It’s just a look of determination. It’s a look that says I’m not going to quit. It’s a look that says I’m going to do whatever it takes to put us in a position to win the game.”

The Heat were trailing 44-40 after an opening half in which they were once again ravaged by the Pacers’ big front line of Roy Hibbert, David West and Paul George, who had combined for all but five of Indiana’s points while leading the Pacers to a 24-19 advantage on the glass.

The defending champs returned to their locker room to hear a profane lecture from Juwan Howard, the 40-year-old forward who has been inactive throughout the playoffs.

James then repeated the message in his own words, and more loudly than Dwyane Wade or any of his teammates had ever heard in his three years here.

“We just had no sense of urgency,” said James after exploding for 30 points, eight rebounds and six assists.

They outscored the Pacers 30-13 in that telltale third quarter. James and Haslem together doubled Indiana’s scoring output.

Of Miami’s nine initial baskets of the half, James assisted for three and finished the other half-dozen himself, and from the start he made his intentions clear to the Heat as well as to the Pacers.

After attacking for an opening layup, he appeared agitated while pointing his teammates to different positions. “Once he has that look,” said Haslem, “we have to keep up with him.”

Haslem was ready to follow orders. He had gone 8 for 9 from the field in Game 3 while helping to run the Pacers out of their own gym last weekend, and two games later he was going 8 for 9 again.

The rallying third quarter began and ended with Haslem: James found him under the basket for a layup and then on the elbow for an emotional driving dunk to restore the lead to Miami.

James was on his way to one of those quarters that no one else can generate -- 16 points on 7-for-10 shooting, four assists, four rebounds and a blocked shot.

“That’s LeBron showing his greatness and making it look easy,” said Miami coach Erik Spoelstra. “His engine in that third quarter was incredible. He was making plays on both ends of the court, rebounding, covering so much ground defensively and then making virtually every play for us offensively.”

It has come to that for James because Dwyane Wade (10 points) and Chris Bosh (seven points) have not been their usual prolific selves in this series.

The pedigree of this team is that other options are usually available, whether it’s Mario Chalmers (12 points and six assists), who has been encouraged by James to attack via their pick-and-rolls, or Haslem, who would go 5 for 5 in the third quarter.  He hit three straight jumpers from the elbow to help push Miami’s advantage to 70-57 entering the fourth.

When 6-9 David West (17 points, eight rebounds) confronted the 6-2 Chalmers at the end of another failed Indiana possession in the third, Haslem stepped in noisily as all three of them earned technical fouls.

 

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