Basketball / Sports

Foul trouble dooms LeBron James in Miami Heat's Game 5 loss to Indiana Pacers

INDIANAPOLIS -- It's headed back to Miami.

A wild Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals ended with the Pacers extending the series with a 93-90 victory on Wednesday night at Bankers' Life Fieldhouse. The Heat still leads the series 3-2 and can advance to the NBA Finals for the fourth year in a row with a victory on Friday at AmericanAirlines Arena.

The Heat trailed by four points with 46 seconds to play but had a chance at the win in the final seconds. Chris Bosh's corner three-pointer was off the mark, however, and Pacers center Roy Hibbert came away with the series-extending defensive rebound.

That the Heat actually had a chance to win the game in the end was almost dumbfounding. LeBron James played just 24 minutes because of foul trouble and finished with seven points. Still, the Heat nearly ended this best-of-7 series in five games.

"Regardless of what happens, we still had enough opportunities to come away with a win," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "We just couldn't get over the hump."

Bosh banked in a three-pointer with 1:16 to play to cut the Pacers' lead to 88-87, and the arena let out a giant sound of desperation. The angst was answered by Paul George with 46 seconds left when he made a second-chance three-pointer in front of the Heat's bench. The shot was made possible by an offensive rebound by Hibbert while James was caught watching the play from just outside the paint.

James redeemed himself, however, when he delivered one of his classic chase-down blocks to save the game on a breakaway layup attempt by Pacers guard George Hill. Rashard Lewis delivered a three-pointer with 16 seconds to play to cut Indiana's lead to 91-90.

"We were trying our best to close it out just to go back home and get some rest and (be) ready for the next round," Lewis said. "But it's still a playoff series. Those guys played great defensively, they took care of home court, and now we have to try to go home and close it out."

Following a timeout by the Pacers, Shane Battier knocked away an inbounds pass intended for George, and the officials reviewed the play at length to determine possession. The Pacers were awarded the ball, and on the next inbounds pass Battier was whistled for a block before the play could even begin. George missed his one free-throw attempt, but David West was fouled on the Pacers' third inbounds play of the possession.

"I have really nothing to say about that play," Battier said of the controversial sequence. "They earned this one. They made a couple more plays than us down (the) stretch."

West only made the first of his two foul shots though, which gave the Heat a chance to take the lead.

"He missed the free throw, and we still had an opportunity," Lewis said.

With the Heat trailing 92-90 with 12 seconds left, James drove to the basket but kicked out a pass to Bosh. Bosh missed.

"LeBron's an unselfish guy," Bosh said. "It doesn't come down to one play."

George led the Pacers with 37 points after his team only scored 33 points in the entire first half. The Heat led 42-33 at the break.

A three-pointer by James tied the game at 81-81 with 3:51 to play, but West answered with a basket inside. George then put the Pacers ahead by four points, but Lewis answered with a three-pointer. Lewis had 18 points and was 6 of 9 from three-point range.

Foul trouble reduced James to the world's greatest 6-8, 280-pound cheerleader for most of the game. The Heat weathered James' absence in the second quarter but then floundered in the third quarter without its versatile superstar.

"It's frustrating," James said. "I'm much better on the floor than I am off it."

Bosh found a silver lining in defeat.

"We run a lot through LeBron," he said. "He's one of our best defenders, our best offensive player. He's our best player. Any time you have your best player out, it makes it more difficult. He creates for everybody. We had to fend for ourselves out there. He spoils us a little bit.

"I think (Wednesday night), we turned a hump. We were able to really work other guys and put ourselves in a position to win."

In a bizarre 12 minutes, the Heat outscored the Pacers 26-11 in the second quarter despite James only playing 70 seconds of the period. But James picked up his fourth foul 21 seconds into the third quarter and then went back to the bench after his fifth foul. He played just 3 minutes 26 seconds in the third quarter.

"I thought we gave ourselves a chance all night because of our defense," Dwyane Wade said. "We gave ourselves a chance to win on the road, and that's all you can ask for even with LeBron not putting his imprint on the game."

James entered the game with 10:30 left in the game and the Heat trailing 69-62. The Pacers' lead ballooned to 11 points before the Heat made its run. A corner three-pointer by George with 9:15 to play gave the Pacers a 75-66 lead.

George stole a pass moments later and raced the length of the floor for a breakaway dunk. It was James who committed the turnover and it was James who watched as George coasted in for the easy field goal. James is usually a threat to block breakaway attempts, but with five fouls he couldn't chance it.

With James lacking freedom defensively and struggling offensively, the Heat needed a spark desperately and found it in the form of Wade.

Bosh caught an airball by James and scored on a putback to cut the Pacers' lead to 77-68 and, following a missed three-pointer by Lance Stephenson, Wade drilled a three-pointer to cut the Pacers' lead to 77-71. Wade then went inside for a driving layup and followed with another three-pointer to pull the Heat within one at 79-78 with 4:59 to play.

Wade finished with 18 points and Ray Allen had 15 points off the bench. George had 21 points in the fourth quarter, which set an all-time record for points in a quarter against the Heat in a postseason game. Michael Jordan held the previous record (20 points).

(c)2014 The Miami Herald

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Distributed by MCT Information Services

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