MIAMI – LeBron James made a layup as time expired in overtime, and the Miami Heat found a way to beat the Indiana Pacers 103-102 in a wild Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals Wednesday night.
James finished with 30 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for the Heat – his ninth postseason triple-double.
Paul George made three free throws with 2.2 seconds left in overtime, which he forced with a miracle 3-pointer, to give the Pacers the lead. But James – with Indiana shot-blocking center Roy Hibbert curiously on the bench – just drove the left side of the lane and scored with ease.
George was fouled by Dwyane Wade on the play where the Pacers had to think they had stolen the series opener. He also saved the Pacers in regulation with a 32-footer with 0.7 seconds left in regulation that tied the game, and tried a shot from a similar distance as time was expiring in the extra session.
Referee Jason Phillips said Wade hit George, and the Pacers’ star made all three free throws for the 16th lead change of the night.
Wade scored 19 points, Chris Bosh 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, 19 from Hibbert. The Pacers have won only two series in franchise history after dropping a Game 1.
The final few seconds of regulation were stunning, with Ray Allen – the sixth-best free-throw shooter in NBA history – missing one that proved big, and George making a miracle happen.
Trailing by two with 17.7 seconds left, the Pacers had to foul Allen, who surely would have been their last choice. But he missed one of the two free throws, and it remained a one-possession game. Indiana brought the ball into the frontcourt, called time, and then seemed to have nothing really working as the final seconds of regulation ticked away.
So George simply made something happen.
From 32 feet — from the newly applied Eastern Conference finals sticker on the side of the court, technically — George connected with 0.7 seconds left, tying the game and giving Indiana life.
Allen didn’t get much of a desperation shot off at the end of regulation, and to overtime the teams went.
The Pacers kept landing the first punches. George made a pair of free throws to open the extra session, 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 three-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 3 attempt by Battier.
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.