The Miami Heat took a 3-2 lead in their best-of-seven NBA Eastern Conference final on Thursday night, defeating the Indiana Pacers.
The Miami Heat, riding largely on the shoulders of LeBron James’ clutch second-half shooting, are now one game away from their third NBA Finals appearance, defeating the Indiana Pacers, 90-79, Thursday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.
James led all scorers with 30 points, to go along with 8 rebounds and 6 assists (including 3-of-7 shooting from behind the three-point arc). But Miami got an additional, if unlikely boost from the inspired play of former Florida Gators star Udonis Haslem, who had 16 points – all of them in the second half – with a string of key field goals in the opening minutes of the third quarter. And some of those buckets, it appeared, were largely uncontested – due to James’ being constantly double-teamed. Indiana had led 44-40 at the break, but Haslem’s 8-for-8 field-goal surge, together with James’ scoring (they combined for 26 points in the third quarter alone) effectively K.O.’d the Pacers, who were outscored in the penultimate quarter, 30-13.
James and Haslem were joined in double-figure scoring by teammates Mario Chalmers (12 points and 6 assists) and Dwyane Wade (10 points). But Miami’s margin would have been even greater had they not continued their poor free throw shooting: they were only 7-of-12 from the line (58%). However, they returned to their stingy ways with turnovers (10) as opposed to the Pacers, who once again were sloppy with the ball (17 turnovers). Miami also allowed only 32 points in the paint – forcing Indiana into an outside game that just couldn’t get clicking. The Heat, for their part, were able to ratchet up the tempo, which favors their quick and highly-athletic style of play.