INDIANAPOLIS (TSN) – This time it was LeBron James on the sideline in the deciding moments as the Indiana Pacers escaped Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals with a 99-92 victory over the Miami Heat.
James fouled out for just second time in his playoff career after totaling 24 points, six rebounds and five assists for the Heat, whose 10-game road winning streak coming in included a lopsided Game 3 triumph at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Roy Hibbert, benched late in overtime in a series-opening loss, was the difference-maker Tuesday as the Pacers evened the series, finishing with 23 points and 12 rebounds and scoring twice off offensive boards down the stretch in the tight game.
Lance Stephenson checked in with 20 points, George Hill added 19 and David West followed with 14 with 12 rebounds for an Indiana club that connected on 50 percent of its shots and saw all five starters score in double figures.
Mario Chalmers and Dwyane Wade scored 20 and 16 points, respectively, for Miami, which only committed six turnovers but shot a pedestrian 39 percent from the floor and was outrebound by a 49-30 margin. .
The Heat’s Chris Bosh limped to the locker room with a sprained right ankle midway through the third quarter. He returned in the fourth but only had seven points and three boards in just under 30 minutes on the floor.
Game 5 is set for Thursday in Miami.
“Our guys rose to the challenge,” Pacers head coach Frank Vogel said. “Our defense returned to form. We had a bad game (Sunday) and we made adjustments.”
Indiana was in control, ahead 81-72 early in the fourth quarter when Hibbert missed a shot inside and the Pacers grabbed the offensive rebound. Tyler Hansbrough was in the midst of converting the putback when the whistle blew, and with it the Pacers’ momentum subsided.
A 24-second violation was called before Hansbrough got his shot off, though replay showed Hibbert’s attempt clearly struck the rim, which should have reset the shot clock.
Needing just a small window of opportunity, the Heat rattled off 14 of the next 16 points to take the lead. James connected on a straightaway 3-pointer to tie it at 83-83, and Wade converted a go-ahead three-point play off a turnover the next time down.
Paul George, who had just seven points at the time, stopped the rally with a three-point play, and it was knotted at 89-89 prior to Hibbert coming through in the final three minutes.
George was wildly off the mark on a perimeter attempt but the ball went directly to Hibbert for an easy lay-in. After Ray Allen missed from long distance, Hibbert cleaned up his own miss while being fouled by James.
The subsequent free throw gave the Pacers a 94-89 edge, and after James hit a 3-pointer with 1:20 remaining, Stephenson’s runner went in off a fortunate bounce to make it a two-possession game again.
The four-point lead looked larger when James was called for a moving pick with 56 seconds remaining. It was the sixth foul for James, who had not fouled out in the regular season and whose only other playoff disqualification came, coincidentally, in Game 4 of the East finals last season against the Celtics.
Wade was called for a traveling violation on Miami’s next possession, and the Pacers made enough free throws to seal the much-needed victory.
Indiana made its first five shots of the game in racing out to an 11-0 lead, then missed seven of eight attempts as Miami quickly erased its early hole.
James had seven points during the comeback and fed Udonis Haslem for a dunk and a 17-16 Heat lead late in the first quarter, but the league MVP was given a technical foul on the ensuing possession for arguing a foul call.
The technical temporarily turned the tide, and the Pacers went into the second quarter ahead by a 26-22 margin and never trailed again in the half. They were in front by as many as nine, though the Heat made a late push and pulled within 48-47 at the break.
The Heat hit their stride in the early stages of the third, and a 9-0 run gave them their biggest lead at 60-54 with 7 1/2 minutes on the clock.
Indiana was unfazed, however, as West scored seven points on the Pacers’ subsequent 10-0 run, and the hosts went into the fourth in front by a 77-70 score after Stephenson drained a fadeaway 3-pointer from the corner while falling down as the clock struck zero.
NOTES: Indiana has never won a seven-game playoff series when losing two of the first three games (0-7) … The Pacers are 10-1 this postseason when leading at halftime … Vogel was whistled for a technical foul in the third quarter for arguing a foul call on George, who netted 12 points on 4-of-10 shooting … Miami’s Chris Andersen did not attempt a shot. He has not missed a shot in this series so far, going 13-of-13 from the field.