When the Miami Heat are playing below average and in danger of succumbing to a fired-up opponent, they can always rely on their trump card.
LeBron James and Dwyane Wade scored 21 of the Heat’s 25 fourth-quarter points, including all of 14 points in Miami’s 14-3 run that allowed them to take command of the game and steal homecourt advantage with an 87.83 win.
Wade and James were largely inconsequential through the first three quarters before James scored six straight points and Wade added four more for a 10-0 run. Miami never relinquished the lead.
James finished with 22 points with 12 coming in the fourth quarter. Wade had 23 points and 10 in the final quarter.
The Pacers were the superior team through the first half, though the raucous crowd and home-run plays gave the game the air of a blowout when in reality, both teams were trading the lead possession after possession.
Once Miami’s defense turned up the pressure, Indiana’s offense foundered as it has done several times this postseason.
Passes into the post went astray, players trying to score on cuts found passes sailing feet past them and screens intended to free up perimeter players failed to connect.
It is a criticism that has been levelled at Indiana on more than one occasion this season as their offensive pace slowed to glacial speed as players walked round screens and gazed on from the perimeter.
Miami got key contributions from Norris Cole and Chris Andersen off the bench, Cole scoring 11 points and Andersen grabbing 12 boards as they were critical in ramping up the intensity just when Indiana looked to be coming to dominate proceedings.
Paul George struggled throughout the game, at one point shooting 1-12 from the field. George finished with 14 points and suffered what is sounding increasingly like a concussion when Dwyane Wade’s knee collided with the back of his head as they dived for a loose ball.
Lance Stephenson tied his playoff career-high with 25 points as he dominated before the fourth quarter began. He hit 10 of his 17 points as he played all but four minutes of the game.
David West had just 10 points on 5-16 from the field and received a nasty poke to the eye from Norris Cole on a pick-and-roll play.
One member of the big three yet again struggled against Indiana. Chris Bosh scored nine points, taking only nine shots. Bosh has failed to score in double figures in seven of his last 10 games against the Pacers.
Dwyane Wade: 23 points, 10-16 FGS, 5 rebounds, 5 assists
LeBron James: 22 points, 9-18 FGS, 7 rebounds, 6 assists
Norris Cole: 11 points, 3-4 FGS
Lance Stephenson: 25 points, 10-17 FGS, 6 rebounds, 7 assists
Paul George: 14 points, 4-16 FGS, 5 rebounds, 6 assists
Roy Hibbert: 12 points, 5-9 FGS, 13 rebounds
Game 3 @MIA: Saturday 24th May. Tip: 8:30pm