Heat 103, Pacers 102

LeBron James drives Heat to last-second win

LeBron James had a clear lane to the basket for his winning layup against the Pacers and finished off his triple-double in Game 1 (30 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists).
Mike Ehrmann/getty images
LeBron James had a clear lane to the basket for his winning layup against the Pacers and finished off his triple-double in Game 1 (30 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists).

MIAMI — LeBron James caught the inbounds pass, changed direction, and immediately attacked the rim.

There was no one in his way.

There was no stopping him, either.


James made a layup as time expired in overtime, capping a 30-point, 10-rebound, 10-assist effort as the Miami Heat found a way to outlast the Indiana Pacers, 103-102, in a wildly back-and-forth Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals Wednesday night. There were 18 ties and 17 lead changes, the last two of those coming in the final 2.2 seconds.

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‘‘Two teams fought hard,’’ James said. ‘‘We were able to make one more play.’’

If this is how this series is going to go, then get ready for a classic between teams that absolutely wanted to face the other with a trip to the NBA Finals on the line.

Paul George saved the Pacers at the end of regulation with a 32-footer with 0.7 seconds left, and then made three free throws with 2.2 ticks left in overtime to give Indiana a 1-point lead. George pumped his fist gently after the third free throw, then extended his index finger skyward as the teams retreated to their benches to get ready for the final play.

He just left James too much time, and the Pacers left their best shot-blocking option on the bench. Roy Hibbert wasn’t on the floor for the final play, and without a 7-foot-2-inch barrier to contest him, James made the winner look easy.


‘‘Two great teams just throwing punch for punch,’’ Indiana coach Frank Vogel said. ‘‘Our spirit is very high, very confident. We know we can play with this basketball team.’’

Vogel said he left Hibbert off the floor for the final play out of concern of what defending champion Miami would do with Chris Bosh in that scenario. Afterward, he acknowledged he might do it differently next time.

‘‘I would say we would probably have him in next time,’’ Vogel said.

Officials reviewed James’s play at the end, though it was clear he beat the clock, and the Pacers walked slowly toward their locker room, lamenting one that got away — by no fault of George’s.

George was fouled by Dwyane Wade on the play where the Pacers had to think they had stolen the series opener. Referee Jason Phillips said Wade hit George, and the Pacers’ star made all three free throws for the 16th lead change of the night.


The final lead change came moments later.

Wade scored 19 points, Bosh had 17, and Chris Andersen had 16 on 7-for-7 shooting for Miami.

George scored 27 for the Pacers, who got 26 from David West and 19 from Hibbert.

‘‘It just felt like everything was in our favor,’’ George said.

The final few seconds of regulation were stunning, with Ray Allen missing one that proved big, and George making a miracle happen. From 32 feet George connected with 0.7 seconds left, tying the game and giving Indiana life.

The Pacers kept landing the first punches in the extra session. George made a pair of free throws to open the OT, and Andersen tied it with a pair of his own. Hibbert scored from close range, and Wade answered with an easy one after a runout for the 16th tie of the night.

George was far from done. He went past James, got into the lane, tossed up a shot after contact and started what became a 3-point play that put the Pacers up, 99-96. Miami had three chances at the tie — a desperation 3-pointer by Shane Battier as the shot clock was expiring, then a 3-point try by Battier, and another three attempt by Battier. All missed.

But Bosh grabbed the rebound of the last Battier shot that bounced off the rim in that sequence, scored while being fouled by George with 49.7 seconds left, calmly swished the free throw and the teams were — what else? — tied again at 99-all.

James scored on a drive with 10.8 seconds left and George answered with the three free throws. With Hibbert on the bench, Indiana had one plan for James on the last play.

‘‘We wanted LeBron to shoot a jumper right there,’’ George said.

He was just better.