INDIANAPOLIS -- LeBron James hammered home an ally-oop dunk from a Mario Chalmers assist for the first basket of Game 5 in the NBA Eastern Conference finals.
He didn’t score again until the second half, and the Heat lost 93-90. The Heat now leads the series 3-2 as the teams head back to Miami for Game 6.
James picked up two fouls in the first quarter and a third when he bulldozed Paul George at the 6:03 mark of the second quarter.
James’ foul trouble proved to be the right recipe the Pacers needed to avoid — for at least one more game — their offseason, after what has been a tumultuous season.
Before Game 5, the Pacers’ Lance Stephenson admitted it was a mistake to call out Lebron James before Game 4 by saying his trash-talking was a “sign of weakness.” Stephenson made the concession after Miami made it look easy at home in Games 3 and 4.
Even with James on the bench, it was the Heat, not the Pacers, who found their blue collar and gold swagger in the second quarter.
Behind 10 points from Ray Allen off the bench, the Heat outscored the Pacers by 15 to take a nine-point lead. The series looked all but over.
But with James still quiet and picking up his fourth and fifth fouls in the third quarter, the Pacers came alive.
In the midst of a 20-4 run, the Pacers tied the score on a Roy Hibbert jump hook and took the lead a moment later on a steal and dunk by Paul George. As the third quarter expired, George added to the damage by drilling a three-point turnaround jumper after posting up on the wing on an inbounds pass.
The Pacers scored 31 points in the quarter after scoring only 33 in the first half.
James, on the other hand, entered the fourth quarter with five fouls and two points. He stayed in the game, though, and the Heat chipped away at the Pacers’ lead. James eventually tied the score on a three-pointer with 3:48 left in the game.
His three-point attempt a moment later failed to draw iron, and James finished with only seven points in the game.
To seal the win in the final three minutes, George hit three deep shots, two of them three-pointers, over Wade and James, with time waning on the shot clock.
“I had to be aggressive,” George said after the game.
George finished with 37 points, 31 of which were in the second half.
The Pacers kept things interesting by missing three free throws in the final minute, but Chris Bosh’s potential game-winning three-pointer missed.
Despite James’ foul trouble, Heat coach Eric Spoelstra said Miami “still had enough opportunities to come away with the win.” He expressed concern that when his team needed consecutive defensive stops late in the game, they could not seem to get them.
Nursing a thigh injury, Chris “Birdman” Anderson was inactive for the second game in a row.
Anderson’s injury paved the way to a stunning Rashard Lewis effort that got overshadowed in the loss. Lewis started for the second consecutive game and hit six three-pointers in a losing effort.
“[Lewis] has an absolute neon-green light,” Spoelstra said.