Saturday, December 16, 2017

Heat beats Pacers in NBA playoffs

MIAMI — This was not the script, couldn't have been the script.

Not with Dwyane Wade not scoring his second basket until midway through the fourth quarter, not with LeBron James not converting his first free throw until late in the fourth.

But with James taking control of the script in the third quarter, the latest chapter of the Heat's Big Three experience is down to this: They now are one victory from their third consecutive appearance in the NBA Finals.

Moving to a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference final with Thursday's 90-79 victory over the Pacers, the Heat can close out the series Saturday night at Indiana.

With Wade and center Chris Bosh off, combining for a meager 17 points on 6 of 14 shooting, James turned the Big Three into the ultimate one when he scored 16 of his 30 in the third quarter, personally outscoring the Pacers by three in the period.

"That's LeBron showing his greatness and making it look easy," Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. "His engine in that third quarter was incredible."

With power forward Udonis Haslem sparking the Heat's 30-13 third-quarter breakthrough first with a dunk, then three consecutive baseline jumpers, the Heat overcame what proved to be a big three effort from the Pacers, who got 27 points from small forward Paul George, 22 from center Roy Hibbert and 17 from power forward David West, but little else.

James, who added eight rebounds and six assists, got solid support from former Gator Haslem and point guard Mario Chalmers.

Haslem closed with 16 points but was praised as much by Spoelstra for his defensive effort.

"He really set the physical tone for us," Spoelstra said. "In the third quarter he was everywhere."

Scuffles resulted in a flagrant foul on Heat backup center Chris Andersen and technicals for Haslem, Chalmers and Indiana's West and Tyler Hansbrough.

In series tied 2-2, the winner of Game 5 has won 83 percent of such series.

The Heat and Pacers also were tied 2-2 last season in the Eastern Conference semifinals, with the Heat winning a tense Game 5 and then Game 6.

"Our backs are up against the wall again," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said.

more heat-pacers: James, West and Indiana's Lance Stephenson were fined $5,000 for violating the league's anti-flopping policy. James makes about $17 million in playing salary, plus an estimated $40 million in endorsements. West makes $10 million, and Stephenson makes just over $900,000. … Indiana's Game 4 victory earned a 5.1 rating and was watched by 8.1 million on TNT, making it the No. 1-ranked program in prime time. The series is averaging 7.7 million viewers, up 7 percent from TNT's first four games of the 2012 Thunder-Spurs West final.

around the league: The Kings reached an agreement with Warriors assistant Mike Malone to be coach, ending Keith Smart's tenure, reports said. Smart took over for fired Paul Westphal in January 2012. …Warriors forward David Lee had surgery to repair a torn right hip flexor. No timetable on the former Gator's recovery was announced. … The Rockets reportedly are ready to take the best offer for forward Thomas Robinson to clear cap space and pursue Dwight Howard in free agency. Robinson, the fifth overall draft pick in 2012, is due to earn $3.52 million; Houston hopes to offer Howard the maximum $20.5 million per season. … Lakers guard Steve Nash is fighting to keep his ex-wife, Alejandra Amarilla Menrath, and three young children from moving from Phoenix to California, which could allow her to petition to get more money from Nash.

Heat 90, Pacers 79

INDIANA (79): George 11-19 0-0 27, West 7-16 3-4 17, Hibbert 8-14 6-6 22, Hill 0-4 1-1 1, Stephenson 2-7 0-0 4, Young 1-1 0-0 2, T.Hansbrough 1-3 1-2 3, Mahinmi 1-3 1-2 3, Augustin 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 31-69 12-15 79.

MIAMI (90): James 13-26 1-4 30, Haslem 8-9 0-0 16, Bosh 3-7 0-0 7, Chalmers 5-12 0-0 12, Wade 3-8 4-6 10, Battier 0-2 0-0 0, Andersen 2-2 0-0 4, Allen 2-6 2-2 7, Cole 2-3 0-0 4. Totals 38-75 7-12 90.

Indiana 23 21 13 22— 79

Miami 19 21 30 20— 90

3-Point GoalsIndiana 5-13 (George 5-8, Stephenson 0-1, Hill 0-2, Augustin 0-2), Miami 7-18 (James 3-7, Chalmers 2-4, Bosh 1-1, Allen 1-3, Wade 0-1, Battier 0-2). Fouled OutStephenson. ReboundsIndiana 45 (George 11), Miami 38 (James 8). AssistsIndiana 11 (George 5), Miami 19 (James, Chalmers 6). Total FoulsIndiana 19, Miami 11. TechnicalsT.Hansbrough, West, Andersen, Chalmers, Haslem. Flagrant Fouls—Andersen. A19,913 (19,600).

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