INDIANAPOLIS — LeBron James scored six straight points to spark a decisive 12-2 run, and the Miami Heat beat the Indiana Pacers 87-83 on Tuesday night to leave the Eastern Conference finals tied at a game apiece.
James had 12 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter. Dwyane Wade had 23 points, 13 in the first half when the Heat desperately needed them to stay close, and 10 more in the fourth quarter when they had to rally.
Game 3 is Saturday in Miami.
Lance Stephenson tied his playoff career high with 25 points for the Pacers. Paul George scored 14.
The Heat trailed 73-69 with 7:19 left. But James hit a 3-pointer, and then scored the first six points in the rally and the Heat defence gave up only eight points over the final five minutes.
Miami has won 11 straight games following a playoff loss and still has not trailed 2-0 in a series since the first round of the 2012 playoffs.
At times, the rough-and-tumble night took on the aura of a football game, especially late.
George and Wade banged knees while chasing a loose ball, then returned following the ensuing timeout. James crashed hard awkwardly to the floor when West was called for a flagrant one foul in the fourth quarter — a call later changed to a common foul following a replay review.
“That’s what’s it’s about,” James said. “It’s not going to be pretty. Not in the Eastern Conference. It’s never pretty basketball in the Eastern Conference. It’s about who can sustain runs. You know, who can get defensive stops? Who can not turn the ball over and who can get great shots? I think we did that in the fourth.”
Defence clearly was the theme of Game 2.
Two days after allowing the Pacers to score 107 points, their most in this year’s post-season, Miami rallied in the first half by holding Indiana to just nine points over one 10-minute stretch. And they flipped the game late with a suffocating defence, too.
“We fly around. Game 1 we didn’t fly around,” James said. “We let them dictate everything that they wanted and we didn’t play Miami Heat defence. That’s what’s good about this team, we go back, we watch the film, we own up to what we did, the mistakes that we had, and then we come out and make it happen.”
It was not easy against a Pacers team that chased home-court advantage all season — only to squander it in the first two games of each of the first three playoff series. Now they’ll need a win at Miami to get it back.
The home team had won all five of this season’s previous five games between the Eastern powers, and eight straight overall, including last season’s playoff series.
Indiana was in a strong position when it went on a 10-2 third-quarter run to retake a 47-45 lead and eventually extended the lead to 63-56 with 2:07 left in the third quarter.
But James found Chris Bosh and Norris Cole for open 3-pointers to close the quarter, getting Miami within 63-62.
Indiana again had a chance to take control after George hit a 29-footer to make it 73-69 with 7:19 to go.
James then took over again.
He hit a 3 to make it a one-point game, and after Roy Hibbert made a 6-foot hook shot, James scored six straight to start the 12-2 run that put the game away.
“We’re never satisfied until we close out the series. We’ve got a lot of work to do,” James said. “We’ve got a couple days off. Those are mental days for us to go through the film, see the ways we can get better even though we played a great game. We’re going to get after it when we get back to Miami and get back to our home fans.”