LeBron James knifed his way through the lane on an inbound play with 2.2 seconds remaining in overtime and made an easy layup as time expired to stun the Indiana Pacers, 103-102, in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Wednesday night at American Airlines arena.
After a wild sequence that included a turnover by each team and the Pacers down by two, Dwyane Wade fouled Paul George on a desperation three point attempt with 2.2 seconds left in the extra frame to put Miami in the improbable position.
George did double damage at the 2:10 mark in the extra frame, drawing James' fifth foul and giving the Pacers a 99-96 lead in the process after converting the free throw. Chris Bosh answered with a three-point play of his own at the 49.7 mark to tie things up at 99 apiece.
As wild as the overtime period was, the fourth quarter had just as much drama.
George's three-pointer with 0.7 seconds remaining sent the game into overtime and atoned for his critical mistake late in regulation.
On the previous sequence, George turned the ball over with 20 seconds remaining as he threw the ball away into the corner as Indiana was down by two. It was an ironic twist at the end of a game marred by agonizing giveaways from both squads. On the next play, Indiana was forced to foul Ray Allen, who incredibly missed 1 of 2 free throws to give the Pacers a shot at tying the game.
James led the way for the Heat with 30 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. Wade came alive in the second half in typical fashion to finish with 19 points after a quiet first half. Miami survied a dismal shooting night from the free throw line, where they shot just 64 percent as a group.
George's team-high 27 points and incredible defense on James was overshadowed by the Heat win. He added five assists and four rebounds but committed six turnovers. The Pacers got an outstanding performance from David West, who embraced the physical nature of the game to score 26 points while adding five rebounds.
Chris Anderson was instrumental in giving the Heat a big lift in the fourth quarter, where he scored many of his 16 points and added five rebounds and three blocked shots. He made several plays down the stretch that snatched the momentum back from the resilient visitors and put Miami back in control on their home floor, allowing them to send the game into overtime.
Turnovers were the story of the first half as both teams notched double-digit giveaways in the first 24 minutes. The Heat committed 13 while the Pacers totaled 12. The Pacers went into the locker room at the break ahead, 42-37, largely due to the fact that they were able to convert 11 points against the Heat's six off those mistakes. James struggled to record a basket in the second quarter and finished with nine points.
In the third, Miami stormed back into the game behind a resurgent quarter from James. He regularly got to the hoop and forced the Pacers defense to get out of position, totaling nine to bring his point total through three quarters of play to 18. Indiana turned the ball over five times and allowed eight points by the Heat. Getting them going in transition was a dangerous development for the Pacers.
The fourth quarter was the manifestation of solid adjustments from both teams. The turnovers were minimized and both teams played sound defense and made the other squad work for everything. The crescendo of it all ended with the George sequence of a turnover and subsequent heroic shot to provide extra basketball in opening game of the series.
Physicality was another major factor in how the game played out. There were a combined 58 fouls, and several players played significant minutes with foul trouble late, including James, who had five through half of the fourth quarter and all of overtime, which opened up the floor for Indiana.
Miami overcame a rough night from the three-point line, where they went 5 of 18 by shooting a respectable 47.7 percent from the field. Indiana put up similar numbers in that respect, finishing at 44.6 percent from the field and just 28.6 percent from deep.