Mar 27 2014, 1:32am CDT | by Poch de la Rosa
Even though Indiana shot just 37 percent from the floor, it was able to make two crucial stops in the end game to seal the victory. After Pacers point guard George Hill uncharacteristically missed two free throws, Heat forward/center Chris Bosh shot an air ball from 20 feet which would have won the game for Miami at the buzzer.
Pacers.com's Scott Agness described the playoff-type atmosphere in his game recap:
"With the Heat in town for the final time during the regular season, the game was built up like a playoff game. There was an overflow of media on hand that provided all-day coverage, plus colored cards awaiting each fan at their seat that together revealed "BEAT THE HEAT."
"Walking through Indiana's locker room pregame, it was clear that it wasn't just an ordinary game. They were mostly quiet, locked in and ready for an upcoming task -- beat the defending champs, again."
After Hibbert's first-quarter tear propelled Indiana to a 23-17 lead after the first quarter, the Heat shot 62 percent in the second period while it limited the Pacers to just 29 percent shooting. Lance Stephenson scored nine of his 15 points in the quarter for Indiana, per Agness.
Miami scored 28 points in the quarter to take a 45-44 lead at halftime.
The Heat unleashed a 15-2 run in the final two-and-a-half minutes of the third quarter. Mario Chalmers had consecutive baskets, Rashard Lewis made a three-pointer from top of the key, Norris Cole made a three-pointer form the left corner and James knocked down two free throws to give Miami a 68-61 lead.
George's dunk off an assist by reserve point guard Donald Sloan made it 68-63 in favor of Miami at the end of three quarters.
With five minutes remaining in the game, Stephenson, who got into a skirmish with Heat guard Dwyane Wade in the second quarter, was slapped with his second technical foul and an automatic ejection after he jawed with Wade on his way to the other end of the court.
Stephenson's bucket made it 76-72 in favor of the Pacers before he was tossed from the game.
Enter Evan Turner.
Turner, one of the players the Pacers acquired for Danny Granger, came through. After the Heat went on an 8-0 run to go up by four, Turner's two layups in the waning moments put Indiana back in front 81-80.
James tried to regain the lead for Miami on a triple but he missed. Pacers forward David West made a three-pointer -- just his fourth of the season -- with the shot clock running down on the other end to give the Pacers an 84-80 lead.
Bosh made a three-pointer to cut the deficit to two with two seconds remaining before Hill's two botched charities.
Bosh told Joseph Goodman of The Miami Herald that had he had enough time on his hands, he would have made jumper at the buzzer.
"It didn't have enough time. If I had about a half more second or one more second it would have been, but there was no time. It was two passes. You can't make two passes and set for a shot at the end."
The game was a physical one -- James stuck a cotton swab in his nose after getting hit in the face, Wade iced his right hamstring and Hibbert took an elbow to the face from a driving James in the fourth quarter which left him very dazed.
West aptly summed it up at game's end, per The Associated Press.
"They're a tough team, psychologically against most teams they have the edge. They've got the best player in the game. Their pedigree, their entire organization, you understand what you're going to get."
The win ups the Pacers win-loss record to 52-20 to take a three-game lead for the East's No. 1 playoff seed over the Heat, who slipped to 48-22.
Poch de la Rosa
Poch de la Rosa follows all major U.S. sports: NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and the NCAA. His favorite teams are the Colts, Braves, Pacers, Sharks and Irish, respectively.
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