Suddenly, the road back to the Eastern Conference finals no longer looks daunting for Miami.
Not after the Heat left the Pacers beat up and banged up.
LeBron James scored 30 points, Dwyane Wade added 28, and the Heat moved a win away from the NBA’s final four with a 115-83 victory over the hurting Pacers on Tuesday night, a game where three flagrant fouls added more chapters to an already-physical series and Indiana watched starting forwards Danny Granger and David West leave with injuries.
”This is our challenge right now, to leave it behind us,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. ”A lot of good things tonight, but we have to focus on the next one.”
That would be Game 6 in Indiana on Thursday night. The Heat lead the best-of-seven East semifinals 3-2.
James added 10 rebounds and eight assists. Shane Battier scored 13 points, Mario Chalmers had eight points and 11 rebounds, and Udonis Haslem finished with 10 points for Miami, which never trailed, held a 22-2 edge in fast-break points and shot a franchise playoff-record 61 percent - best of any team in the playoffs this season.
Paul George scored 11 points for Indiana, with Granger and West adding 10 points apiece. Granger left with a sprained left ankle in the third quarter and departed the arena in a walking boot, while West departed with what the Pacers called a left knee sprain at the end of that period - something that West thought was born of a cheap shot…
A series marked by ugly moments had perhaps its worst with 19.4 seconds remaining when Miami reserve center Dexter Pittman went across the lane to send a forearm into the chin area of Indiana’s Lance Stephenson - who was caught on camera making a choke sign toward James during the Pacers’ Game 3 win, drawing the ire of the Miami locker room.
Pittman was caught on camera winking after the foul.
– Reported by Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press
Playing at a pace that minimized the advantage the Pacers held in the power rotation with center Roy Hibbert and power forward David West, the Heat got plenty of thrill-show theatrics from James and Wade on the fastbreak, with Wade clearly having regained the legs he lacked at the start of this series. The Heat outscored the Pacers 22-2 on fast breaks, while limiting them to .337 shooting.
“That’s a big key for us, when we’re able to make stops and get out on transition,” Wade said.
But this wasn’t only James and Wade, and there therefore was no need for James to repeat Sunday’s 40-point performance or for Wade to come up with something similar.
Instead, it was fill-in power forward Shane Battier, who again started in place of sidelined Chris Bosh, converting three first-quarter 3-pointers to set the tone, after entering 2 of 12 on 3-pointers in the series. He closed with 13 points.
– Reported by Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Hansbrough’s claw work marked the second game in a row the Pacers have bloodied a Heat player. In Game 4, Pacers reserve Lou Amundson gashed Haslem in the head with an elbow. The cut required stitches.
Apparently, Haslem had seen enough.
Less than a minute after Hansbrough’s flagrant foul on Wade, Haslem went after Hansbrough with what looked like a deliberate shot to the face. Hansbrough was in the act of shooting but it appeared Haslem worried little about trying to block the shot. Instead, he crushed Hansbrough with both arms.
Hansbrough’s head snapped back as he went to the ground. Haslem was whistled for a flagrant 1. From there, the Heat outscored the Pacers 83-58. After the game, Hansbrough said he wasn’t sure if Haslem’s foul was intentional.
– Reported by Joseph Goodman of the Miami Herald
A cut opened above Wade’s right eye after Hansbrough attempted to block his shot and scraped Wade in the head. Hansbrough was assessed a flagrant-1 foul. Blood dribbled down Wade’s temple and left a stain on his white jersey as he shot free throws.
Indiana’s Danny Granger was prone twice after landing awkwardly on his ankle (the first time on James’ foot) and left the game for good in the third quarter.
Dexter Pittman jammed a blatant elbow into Lance Stephenson’s ribs as he drove the lane. Payback for Stephenson’s choke pantomime directed at James in Game 3? Juwan Howard had also lectured Stephenson before Game 4.
Haslem’s nine stitches were oozing. He took an elbow from Lou Amundson in Game 4. He said he wasn’t seeking revenge on Hansbrough.
– Reported by Linda Robertson of the Miami Herald