Heat | Norris Cole

Norris Cole, fourth-quarter surge help Miami Heat even series

 

Special to the Miami Herald

After a lackluster effort in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, the Miami Heat needed to respond in a big way against the Indiana Pacers. It wasn’t pretty and neither team exactly put on a shooting clinic, but the Heat came out playing aggressively on defense, which showed during a five-minute scoreless stretch for the Pacers in the second quarter.

In the fourth quarter, when it mattered the most, LeBron James sparked a 87-83 win that evened the series.

For most of the night, James played patient — if not passive — basketball. Through three quarters, he had only scored 10 points.

“I just play the game, however [it] presents itself,” James said.

Dwyane Wade kept the game close in the first half, scoring 13 points on 5-of-9shooting from the field. And that after scoring 27 points and shooting 67 percent from the field in a Game 1 loss Sunday.

As expected, Miami came out and matched up much differently against Indiana. James guarded forward Paul George, Chris Bosh took power forward David West, and Udonis Haslem lined up against center Roy Hibbert.

For all the talk about who would play at the power forward spot for the Heat, one of Miami coach Erik Spoelstra’s key adjustments was at point guard. At the end of the first quarter and into the second quarter, reserve Norris Cole replaced starter Mario Chalmers. Norris seemed to spark the Heat and continued to get minutes in the second half. He finished with 11 points and two assists while making both of his three pointers in 26 minutes of action.

“[Cole] was playing well enough that I just kept him in there,” Spoelstra said.

Spoelstra made another gutsy move while trailing in the fourth quarter when he choose to give James a short spell on the bench with less than seven minutes left in the game.

But when James returned into the lineup, he willed his team to a win. He scored 12 points by scoring about every way someone can: hitting a mid-range shot, sinking free throws and knocking down a three-pointer.

James finished with 22 points. His opposing counterpart in George, finished with only 14 points on 4-of-16 shooting.

“You’ve got to credit Miami for making more plays down the stretch,” said Indiana coach Frank Vogel.

The Heat win overshadowed an exciting night by the Pacers shooting guard Lance Stephenson, who scored 25 points.

“It’s a long series,” Stephenson said.

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