The Miami Heat are championship ready.
The Indiana Pacers don’t even look ready to play the next game of this series.
The Heat took command of the series with Monday’s 102-90 win on South Beach, giving the Heat three chances to close out the Pacers and return to the NBA Finals for the fourth straight postseason.
LeBron James scored 32 points and secured 10 rebounds, proving Lance Stephenson wrong in the process.
Stephenson – unwisely, it now seems – elected to tell the media he had gotten under James’ skin, hence the trash-talking from the Heat star.
James took up the scoring burden in the second half after Chris Bosh tallied 25 points, almost matching his points total for the series so far.
With Paul George scoring 23 points, Stephenson adding nine and Roy Hibbert held scoreless for the fourth time in these playoffs and sixth in his last 21 appearances, the Pacers could not uncork their offense and succumbed despite a late rally.
The Heat allowed Indiana a 15-3 run in the fourth quarter, their 23-point lead whittled down to just 11 with 3:20 to play.
Then came the moment which drew much attention post-game. Lance Stephenson had a layup opportunity to cut the deficit to nine, however he was whistled for a controversial offensive foul on Dwyane Wade.
Game 4’s officiating was held up as a major factor in Miami’s win by Paul George after the game, asserting the Pacers outplayed Miami only to be undone by the free-throw disparity.
Miami attempted 34 free-throws to Indiana’s 17, a difference that enabled the Heat to maintain their advantage despite Indiana shooting 50 percent from the field.
Indiana eventually cut the lead to nine points in the final two minutes before LeBron James converted a three-point play to end the game as a contest and hand Miami the keys to a fourth consecutive Finals appearance, a feat only achieved by the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics franchises.
LeBron James: 32 points, 13-21 FGS, 10 rebounds, 5 assists
Chris Bosh: 25 points, 8-10 FGS, 6 rebounds
Dwyane Wade: 15 points, 4-12 FGS, 7-7 FTS
Paul George: 23 points, 8-16 FGS, 7 rebounds
David West: 20 points, 9-18 FGS, 12 rebounds
George Hill: 15 points, 5-10 FGS, 4 assists
Game 5 @IND: Wednesday, May 28th. Tip: 8:30pm ET