The Indiana Pacers got 23 points and 12 rebounds from Roy Hibbert and 20 points from Lance Stephenson to defeat the Miami Heat, 99-92, in Indianapolis to knot their best-of-seven NBA Eastern Conference final at two games apiece. It was also Miami’s first road loss of the postseason.
David West contributed 14 points and 12 rebounds of his own in taking the Pacers’ inside offensive game straight to Miami’s “bigs” – Chris Bosh, Chris Andersen and Udonis Haslem. The Pacers’ driving inside, largely by the trio of Stephenson, Paul George and George Hill, yielded 50 points in the paint to the Heat’s 32 – along with a robust 19 second-chance points. Indiana also fought a decisive battle on the glass, out-rebounding the Heat 49-30, with 35 of those coming off the defensive boards.
Hibbert has said in interviews that he may not block most shots, but that he “changes” opponents’ shots – taking them out of their comfort zones. Nowhere was this more evident than Tuesday night. Indiana shot 35-of-70 from the floor (50%) against Miami’s 39% - with LeBron James (8-18), Dwyane Wade (5-15) and Mario Chalmers (6-14) often feeling the pressure inside from Hibbert and West.
The Pacers got five players into double figures, with Hibbert, Stephenson and West being joined by George Hill with 19 (in addition to 6 assists), and Paul George’s 12. The Heat had four players in double-digits, including James with 24 points on 4-7 from beyond the three-point arc, Chalmers with 20, Wade with 16 points to go with 6 assists, and Ray Allen, who had 11 points, including two timely three-pointers. He also grabbed 7 rebounds.
A refreshing development for the Heat is that they’ve managed to control the ball better of late. In the first two games, they committed a total of 34 turnovers; in the last two, only 11. But offsetting that was the impressive 30 personal fouls they amassed in Game 4 – including a key one on James with time running out.
There were several instances where Indiana seemed ready to fold the tent – no one more glaring than early in the fourth quarter. With the Pacers up 81-72, Indiana was whistled for a 24-second shot clock violation after a Tyler Hansbrough layup was disallowed because the clock did not reset after Hibbert's initial shot attempt had obviously bounced off the rim. The officials did not review it, and Indiana went into a tailspin by allowing the Heat go on a 14-2 run to take the lead, 86-83.
But the Pacers regained momentum in time to close out the game with their own 16-6 scoring binge. A controversial call on a defensive screen in the last 56 seconds had Miami’s James leaving the game with his sixth foul, and Indiana was able to wait out the clock by hitting free throws. The setting now shifts back to Miami for Game 5 on Thursday.