Eastern Conference Finals Game Five: Miami Heat 90 – Indiana Pacers 93
The Miami Heat had all the intentions of closing out their series against the Pacers in Game Five. They could’ve used a few days of extra rest, while the Thunder and Spurs continue to battle it out in the West. But thanks to a monster effort from Paul George, the Pacers were able to edge out a 93-90 victory to extend the series to Game Six in Miami.
George would finish the game with a series-high 37 points, while also getting six steals and just as many rebounds.
Despite the win, the Pacers certainly did it in an unconventional way. After just 10 minutes on the court, LeBron James had already received his third foul and had only scored 2 points. This meant James being sent to the bench to avoid further foul trouble, but the Pacers were unable to capitalize. Instead, the Heat outscored the Pacers in the second quarter, 26-11, and had a 9-point lead at halftime.
But when the Pacers came out in the second half, they looked rejuvenated and recharged. They would go on to outscore the Heat, 31-15, in the quarter, which was enough of a cushion going into the fourth. No points may have been bigger than a three that George hit on an inbounds pass as the third period expired.
Lance Stephenson would finish with 12 points on the night for the Pacers, but it’s more likely that he’ll be remembered for blowing in LeBron James’ ear while playing defense, a sequence that quickly went viral online.
The Pacers also got 19 points and 9 rebounds from David West and 10 and 13 from Roy Hibbert.
Say what you want about Stephenson’s taunting of James, but it may have worked. The Heat forward, who has dominated this series, scored just 7 points on Wednesday while playing in just 24 minutes due to foul trouble. LeBron James’ teams are now 0-9 when he scores less than 15 points in the playoffs.
Chris Bosh led the Heat with 20 points and added 10 rebounds, and Dwayne Wade and Rashard Lewis had 18 points apiece.
The concerning part for the Pacers may be the fact that while they did a great job of holding James to just 7 points, the end result was just a three-point victory. Had James had another huge night, going for anything more than his 26-point average over the playoffs, then this game wouldn’t have been close and the Pacers would be packing it up for the season. As both teams head to Game Six on Friday, the Pacers will need to find more options to rely on other than Paul George, while also holding LeBron James to as few points as possible.
While the Pacers were able to fend off elimination for at least one game, they may have only just barely avoided the inevitable. The Pacers still have the lowest odds of the four remaining teams to win the NBA Championship at 75/1, while the Heat have the best odds at 10/11. Before Game Six tips off in South Beach, check back with sportspicks.com to get information and insight into this game.
If the Heat can win on Friday, they’ll be the first team since the Boston Celtics to make four straight NBA Finals. The Celtics did it from 1984-1987. And while LeBron James may have gotten plenty of slack at the beginning of his career for not being able to close out games, he has a career record of 21-8 in series clinching games.