Those thinking that LeBron James and the Miami Heat would slice through the Indiana Pacers like they did the Milwaukee Bucks and Chicago Bulls are certainly reassessing that idea now.
Two nights after a heartbreaking overtime loss on the final play, the Pacers bounced back with a vengeance, topping the Heat 97-93 and evening the best-of-seven Eastern Conference Finals series at one game apiece. The series now heads to Indiana where the Pacers have gone 6-0 this postseason.
LeBron James led all scorers with 36 points, but it was the gritty team effort of the visiting Pacers that resulted in victory. Roy Hibbert paced Indiana with 29 points while emerging star Paul George chipped in 22. All five Indiana starters scored in double figures.
James was again the driving force for Miami, but unlike Game 1, the Pacers came equipped with a crunch time plan for slowing the Heat superstar.
To learn more about LeBron’s Game 2 performance, view the list.
While the Miami Heat stumbled out of the gate, trailing by as much as 12 in the first quarter, it wasn’t due to LeBron James. James scored 11 of Miami’s first 16 points and helped narrow the gap to six by the end of the frame. LeBron again stepped up in the third quarter, scoring 11 points in the period including a buzzer-beating triple that cut the Pacers lead to just two. James added 10 more points the fourth quarter, but none came in the final 3:31 after the Heat went ahead by two points. James took just one shot in the time period as the Pacers buckled down on defense to thwart the MVP.
Defensively, James continued to do battle with Pacers small forward Paul George. The two went toe-to-toe on more than one occasion with each seeing a measure of success. James managed to grab three steals in the game, but his biggest plays came late against Indiana center Roy Hibbert. With 7:45 to play, James recovered nicely on an entry pass to Hibbert, swatting away the center’s dunk attempt from behind. The rejection led to a Heat basket to put Miami up one. On the ensuing possession, James tied up Hibbert in the key and won the subsequent jump ball, giving the Heat some momentum they were unable to turn into a victory.
In Game 1, the Pacers faltered late, allowing James two key baskets due to defensive breakdowns. That was not the case in Game 2. Indiana learned from its mistakes, and the fourth quarter gameplan was clearly geared toward slowing down LeBron. With Miami trailing by two and less than a minute remaining, a careless perimeter pass by James was intercepted by David West. Seconds later, James was given a shot at redemption, but he again threw the ball away after running into multiple Pacers defenders in the key. The two turnovers proved to be the difference and sullied an otherwise stellar performance by James.