NBA playoffs: Pacers cool Heat, tying Eastern series at one (+video)
Indiana got what they wanted: a split of the first two games in Miami. Now, the Pacers head back to the heartland, looking to take Game 3.
And that has the Heat facing their first big problem of the postseason.
David West scored 16 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, and the Indiana Pacers took home-court advantage away from Miami by beating the Heat 78-75 in Game 2 of the teams' Eastern Conference semifinal series Tuesday night — after James and Wade both came up short on key opportunities down the stretch.
"We never felt like we were the underdogs," Indiana's Danny Granger said.
The series is tied at a game apiece, with Game 3 in Indianapolis on Thursday night.
With Chris Bosh out indefinitely because of a strained abdominal muscle, James scored 28 points for Miami and Wade finished with 24, making them the only two Heat players to score more than five — the first time that happened in franchise history, according to STATS LLC. James missed two free throws with 54.3 seconds left and Miami down one, and Wade was short on a layup that would have tied the game with 16 seconds remaining.
Moments later, a few of the Pacers were leaping at midcourt of Miami's floor, something that Wade said was noticed afterward, though the Indiana side disputed that it was a celebration. Either way, the Heat have bigger issues to address.
"Chris was missed, no doubt about it," Wade said. "But that's not the reason we lost this ball game."
The Pacers kept giving Miami chances. Plenty of them.
Indiana missed 24 of 29 shots in one stretch, on the road. The Pacers wasted an 11-point, second-half lead. They were outscored by Wade and James in the fourth quarter, 21-17.
Somehow, it worked.
"Defense and rebounding," Indiana coach Frank Vogel said. "We built this team, we started talking about smash-mouth basketball, about winning the war in the trenches, and that's with defense and rebounding. That's what I grew up watching Eastern Conference basketball being like. We understand offense is going to come and go, especially like a great defensive team like these guys ... but we're pretty good, too."
Miami shot 35 percent and got outrebounded 50-40, yet still could easily be up 2-0.
"The game is not lost or won with two free throws," James said. "But I definitely want to come through for my teammates. So I'll get an opportunity again. I know I'll be at the line again in that situation. Just go up and make 'em."
After Wade missed the layup that would have tied the game, he remained on the court for a few extra seconds, looking exhausted until James — who said Wade would make that shot "10 out of 10 times" — pulled him up.
"Welcome to the playoffs, for us," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "That's how we're viewing it. This series has started. They won on our home court. Now we have to collect ourselves, gather ourselves and get ready for Game 3. That's all that matters right now."
The Heat were outscored 28-14 in the third quarter, shooting 3 for 17 in that period. They didn't score in the final 2:41 of the game, and when Mario Chalmers missed a 3-pointer that would have tied it on the last play, Miami dropped to 1 for 16 from 3-point range on the night, 1 for 22 in the series.
George Hill had 15 points, Granger scored 11 and Paul George added 10 for Indiana, which made only 38 percent of its shots. The Pacers had been 2-9 this season when shooting that poorly, yet got a split in Miami anyway.
"I feel like we should be 2-0," George said.
James had a chance to give Miami the lead with 1:22 left, but his shot was blocked from behind by George, who was fouled two seconds later. He missed both free throws, keeping the Indiana lead at 76-75. And after Wade missed a jumper, James was fouled by Granger — his sixth — battling for the rebound with 54.3 seconds remaining.
James missed both shots, and Indiana held on from there.
"Their third-leading scorer had five points and that's what you want to do," Granger said. "If LeBron James gets 11 assists they are probably going to win. They scored a lot, but we stopped everyone else."
Emotions picked up considerably in the fourth.
Wade was steaming when he missed a shot after trying to create contact with Indiana's Dahntay Jones with 9:53 left. As Wade argued, Jones went the other way and set Leandro Barbosa up for a score that put the Pacers up 63-56.
Chalmers turned the ball over on the next possession, and as the Pacers took off for what set up as a 2-on-none break, Wade caught Darren Collison from behind and knocked him over. A flagrant-1 was called, Collison hit both free throws, the Indiana lead was nine and tensions were suddenly high.
It all seemed to spark Miami.
The Heat scored the next six points. James — who got hit in the head by Granger with 7:25 left, sparking a bit of shoving that led to double-technicals given to both players — added a putback off an offensive rebound and Wade did the same about a minute later, getting Miami within 69-66 with 5:57 left.
"Playoffs," George said, "are about grinding it out."
James missed a free throw that would have tied it with 4:30 remaining, but after George got the rebound, James dove in to create a jump ball situation. The MVP easily won the tap, sending it to Wade, whose bank shot over West put Miami back on top 72-71.
Barbosa scored on the next Indiana possession. The Pacers weren't rattled, and never trailed again.
NOTES: James' six steals were a Heat playoff record. ... Trying to exploit the size advantage with Bosh out, the Pacers got 7-foot-2 C Roy Hibbert three shots in the first 1:11 of the game. He got three the rest of the game. ... Wade is now 39-11 in home playoff games. ... James will play his 100th playoff game Thursday.