INDIANAPOLIS — Miami put LeBron James right in the middle of the action Sunday night, and this time, the Indiana Pacers didn’t have an answer for him or his Heat teammates.
By moving James to the post, the Heat won the scoring battle in the paint, kept Indiana at arm’s length, and pulled away for a 114-96 victory and a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.
‘‘I made a conscious effort to get down in the post, to put pressure on their defense,’’ James said. ‘‘The coaching staff wanted me to be down there, and my teammates allowed me to do that.’’
It was a move reminiscent of when the Lakers played Magic Johnson in the post in place of the injured Kareem Abdul-Jabbar during the NBA Finals in 1980.
And it worked just as well.
James rebounded from the two late turnovers that cost Miami in Game 2 by scoring 22 points, grabbing four rebounds, and dishing out three assists.
Hours after Dwyane Wade learned he would only be tagged with a flagrant foul from Game 2 and not a suspension, he finished with 18 points, eight assists, and four rebounds.
Chris Bosh added 15 points and three rebounds, and all five Miami starters reached double figures.
The move allowed Miami to outscore Indiana, 56-32, in the paint.
Miami committed a playoff franchise-low one turnover in the first half and finished with only five. James finished with none.
The Heat shot 54.5 percent against a team that finished the regular season with the NBA’s best defensive field goal percentage, and also made 24 of 28 free throws. They matched the highest scoring output in a quarter during this season’s playoffs with 34, set the franchise playoff record for points in a half (70), and fell a point short of tying the third-highest total in a playoff game in franchise history.
But the biggest difference between the first two games and Sunday night’s rout was James’s work on the inside.
‘‘It was something we wanted to get to just to help settle us and get into a more aggressive attack,’’ coach Erik Spoelstra said of the decision to post up the 6-foot-8-inch James. ‘‘We wanted to be a little more aggressive, a little more committed to getting into the paint and seeing what would happen. LeBron was very committed and focused not to settle.’’
Now, with Game 4 scheduled for Tuesday, it’s the Pacers’ turn to adjust.
David West led Indiana with 21 points and 10 rebounds, while Roy Hibbert had 20 points and 17 rebounds. Paul George finished with 13 points and eight assists, not nearly enough to keep the Pacers perfect at home in the postseason (6-1).