Pacers lose opportunity to beat Heat in Miami on final play

Mike Ehrmann

LeBron James and the Miami Heat pulled out a dramatic Game 1 victory against the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night, thanks in part to a brilliant overtime play by the MVP.

Game 1 of the 2013 NBA Eastern Conference Finals could not have ended in a more dramatic fashion. When Paul George nailed a 30-foot three-pointer to send the game into extra time, it became an unforgettable night for everyone involved. By the time LeBron James guided in the game-winning layup with his left hand to give the Miami Heat a 103-102 overtime win, the contest had transformed into an instant-classic. Here's a peek at the reactions from the SB Nation team blogs after the drama from Game 1.

Heat 103, Pacers 102 (OT)

The typical collapse/comeback narrative never really developed in this game, because the Pacers kept things close for the entire night. Miami never led by more than seven points, despite a playoff career-high 16 points on 7-7 shooting from Chris "Birdman" Andersen and a historic 30-point, ten-assist, ten-rebound triple-double from LeBron James.

The lead changed hands 17 times and the score was leveled on 18 occasions, as neither group got hot from beyond the arc (Indiana shot 4-14 from three, Miami shot 5-18). The Heat built up a healthy advantage in the paint with 60 points on crisp 30-44 shooting -- compared to 48 points on a middling 24-46 for Indiana -- and no two points were bigger than LeBron's final bucket in extra time.

For more on this series, visit: Pacers blog Indy Cornrows Heat blog Hot Hot Hoops

The stage for the stunner was set by a Dwyane Wade foul that sent Paul George to the line for three free throws and pushed George's total to a team-high 27 points, as he gave Indiana a 102-101 lead with 2.2 seconds remaining in overtime. Every Miami fan moved to the edge of their seat as Shane Battier made the sideline inbounds to LeBron, who torched George at the point of attack and put in the game winner just like this:

Miami Heat blog Hot Hot Hoops couldn't believe things came together so beautifully at the end for the defending champs:

Overtime found many of the players fatigued, tallying 40+ minutes. Paul George caught more rhythm in overtime taking over for the Pacers, while the Heat struggled to manufacture offense. Chris Bosh's 2nd rebound of the game got him and and-1 put-back that tied the game at 99 with under a minute to play. The next Heat possession found James getting a layup as Indiana took Roy Hibbert out to match up with the smaller Heat. After a inbounds scramble, Wade fouled George on a long three and George knocked down all all of them to give the Pacers a 1 point lead.

Then, it happened. Vogel took Hibbert out again, not sure why, but he did. And LeBron drove straight to the rim past George and scored a layup as time expired. The Heat won the game 103-102 and took Game 1.

Meanwhile, the decision to put Roy Hibbert on the bench in big defensive situations befuddled the other side. Matchups with Chris Bosh aren't ideal for someone like Hibbert, but the question about late-game substitutions by Frank Vogel simply had to pop up in the game recap at Pacers blog Indy Cornrows:

Vogel's decision to force James into a jumper failed when George was in bad position backfired in a big way, leading James towards the basket for the game winning layup. With Hibbert on the bench, it allowed an easy path to the basket instead of using Hibbert's defense to what was assuredly heading towards Chris Bosh to pop up the game winning shot instead.

Vogel played his odds that his defense could stay in front of James and came up snake eyes. His adjustments this postseason have been good enough to rebound from losses (usually anyway), yet there's something demoralizing about giving up Game 1 to the Heat when you have the lead. The Pacers didn't have to win this game, but they failed to seize the opportunities they have and not having this game could easily cost them later on in this series.

Despite the call, Vogel remained optimistic, citing Bosh as the reason he had Hibbert on the bench, also noting, "We'll probably have him in next time."

If Game 1 is any indication, NBA fans have one hell of a series on their hands. Game 2 in Miami is set for Friday night at 8:30 p.m ET.

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