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    West’s defense propels Pacers past Heat

    David West punched two passes from LeBron James away in the final minute, then punched the air. He had plenty of reason to celebrate.
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
    David West punched two passes from LeBron James away in the final minute, then punched the air. He had plenty of reason to celebrate.

    MIAMI — David West punched two passes from LeBron James away in the final minute, then punched the air.

    He had plenty of reason to celebrate.

    The Eastern Conference finals are tied, and home-court advantage now belongs to West and the Indiana Pacers.


    Roy Hibbert scored a postseason career-high 29 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, West broke up two passes by James for huge turnovers, and the Pacers evened the East title series at a game apiece with a 97-93 victory over the Miami Heat in Game 2 Friday night.

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    ‘‘We haven’t done anything yet,’’ Hibbert said. ‘‘We haven’t closed the series out. We won one game. A lot of us feel we should be up 2-0.’’

    Paul George scored 22 points, George Hill added 18, and West finished with 13 for the Pacers, who handed the Heat just their fourth loss in their last 50 games.

    Indiana closed the game on a 13-5 run and denied one of the game’s best playmakers in James twice in the final moments to finish it off.

    ‘‘There’s only like one person that’s more scarier than that,’’ Hill said, speaking of James. ‘‘And that's, you know, God.’’


    The series resumes with Game 3 on Sunday night in Indianapolis.

    ‘‘It’s one of the best basketball games I've ever been a part of,’’ Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. ‘‘It wasn’t about LeBron making mistakes down the stretch. He played one of the best basketball games I've ever seen anybody play. We were just able to make a couple plays late in the game.’’

    More specifically, West made a couple plays late in the game.

    ‘‘These are two close, competitive games that can go either way,’’ Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. ‘‘We had our opportunities. Enough opportunities.’’

    With Indiana up, 95-93, West intercepted a pass that James was throwing to Ray Allen with 43 seconds left. Indiana didn’t cash in on that mistake, turning the ball over with a shot-clock violation.


    On the ensuing Miami possession, West denied James — who led all scorers with 36 points — again.

    James drove to the right block, spun, and tried passing out toward the perimeter. West got his right hand on that pass, knocking it off course and into the hands of Hill, then extended his hand skyward.

    Hill made two free throws with 8.3 seconds left to clinch it, and just like that, the series was tied.

    Game 1, Miami won it with James coming through at the end.

    Game 2, the Pacers simply took away the MVP’s opportunity.

    ‘‘We've been able to maintain our composure throughout the year,’’ West said. ‘‘That’s helped us throughout these playoffs and especially in environments like these.’’

    The Heat got 17 points from Chris Bosh and 14 from Dwyane Wade. The Heat led, 88-84, in the fourth quarter, only to let the lead, the game, and the home-court edge slip away, and James had almost an expressionless look afterward.

    ‘‘Nothing broke down,’’ Wade said. ‘‘He’s going to be hard on himself. He saw guys open, but West was able to get his arms out there at the last moment.’’

    The Heat trailed for virtually all of the game’s first 30 minutes, then tied the game three times in the third quarter — but Indiana always had a response. When the game was tied at 60, the Pacers scored 7 of the next 10 points. Tied at 67, George quickly had a layup to put the Pacers back on top. Tied at 69, George struck again, this time with a jumper.

    With 5.1 seconds left in the third, George drove the lane and finished with a highlight-reel dunk over Miami’s Chris Andersen while getting fouled, the free throw putting the Pacers up by 5.

    James connected on a long 3-pointer to close the quarter, then he and George exchanged a few words afterward and slapped each other’s hand as if to say, ‘‘here we go.’’

    Sure enough, the show was just getting started.