MIAMI — LeBron James made a layup as time expired in overtime, and the Heat found a way to beat the Pacers 103-102 in a wild Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final Wednesday night.
James finished with 30 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, his ninth postseason triple double, and barely anyone noticed. All that mattered was the last shot, which simply saved Miami.
Paul George made three free throws with 2.2 seconds left in the overtime, which he forced with a desperation 3-pointer, to give the Pacers the lead. But after a timeout, James — with Indiana shot-blocking center Roy Hibbert curiously on the bench — just drove down the left side of the lane and scored with ease as the Heat escaped.
Game 2 is Friday night in Miami.
Officials reviewed James' play at the end, though it was clear he beat the clock.
"I knew I had time," James told TNT in an oncourt interview. "Coach drew up a good play, and I told myself I was going to attack. I had two-plus seconds to get to the rim, and I was able to convert the last one."
The Pacers walked slowly toward their locker room, lamenting one that got away, by no fault of George's.
George was fouled by Dwyane Wade on a play on which the Pacers had to think they had stolen the series opener.
George saved the Pacers in regulation with a 32-footer with 0.7 seconds left that tied the score at 92, and he tried a shot from a similar distance as time was expiring in the extra session.
Referee Jason Phillips said Wade hit George, and the Pacers star made all three free throws for the 16th lead change of the night.
The final lead change came moments later, and Miami survived a game that had 18 ties, with neither team ever leading by more than seven points.
"Two teams fought hard," James said. "We were able to make one more play than they made."
Wade scored 19, Chris Bosh had 17 and Chris "Birdman" Andersen had 16 on 7-of-7 shooting for Miami.
George scored 27 for the Pacers, David West 26 and Hibbert 19. The Pacers have won only two series in franchise history after dropping a Game 1.
The final few seconds of regulation were stunning, with Ray Allen — the sixth-best free-throw shooter in NBA history — missing one that proved big, and George making overtime happen.
Trailing by two with 17.7 seconds left, the Pacers had to foul Allen, who surely would have been their last choice. But he missed the first of two free throws, and it remained a one-possession game. Indiana brought the ball into the frontcourt, called time then seemed to have nothing really working as the final seconds of regulation ticked away.
So George simply made something happen.
From 32 feet — from the newly applied Eastern Conference final sticker on the side of the court, technically — George connected with 0.7 seconds left, tying it and giving Indiana life.
Allen didn't get much of a desperation shot off at the end of regulation, and to overtime the teams went.
The Pacers kept landing the first punches. George made two free throws to open the extra session, and Andersen tied it with two of his own. Hibbert scored from close range, and Wade answered with an easy one after a runout for the 16th tie.
INDIANA (102): George 7-16 10-11 27, West 11-17 4-8 26, Hibbert 9-18 1-2 19, Hill 2-9 1-1 5, Stephenson 2-10 3-4 7, T.Hansbrough 5-8 0-0 10, Augustin 1-2 5-6 8, Young 0-1 0-0 0, Mahinmi 0-2 0-0 0, Johnson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 37-83 24-32 102.
MIAMI (103): James 12-24 4-7 30, Haslem 1-6 0-0 2, Bosh 6-11 5-6 17, Chalmers 4-7 0-0 10, Wade 9-15 1-4 19, Battier 0-4 3-4 3, Allen 1-8 1-2 4, Andersen 7-7 2-2 16, Cole 1-4 0-0 2. Totals 41-86 16-25 103.
Indiana 21 21 23 27 10— 102
Miami 22 15 27 28 11— 103
3-Point Goals—Indiana 4-14 (George 3-6, Augustin 1-1, Hill 0-2, Stephenson 0-5), Miami 5-18 (Chalmers 2-2, James 2-6, Allen 1-4, Cole 0-1, Bosh 0-1, Battier 0-4). Fouled Out—Wade. Rebounds—Indiana 53 (Stephenson 12), Miami 55 (James 10). Assists—Indiana 18 (Hill 7), Miami 24 (James 10). Total Fouls—Indiana 30, Miami 28. Technicals—Indiana defensive three second, Andersen, Miami defensive three second 2. A—19,679 (19,600).
Around the league
MAVS MAY CHASE HOWARD: Now that the Clippers have refused to offer coach Vinny Del Negro a new contract, the Mavericks believe they have a better chance of acquiring Dwight Howard than Chris Paul, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.
Howard, the Lakers and former Magic center, and Paul, the Clippers point guard, both will become free agents this summer. Paul likely will have a say on which coach the Clippers hire, meaning he'll probably stay put.
COACH K RETURNING: Mike Krzyzewski has decided to remain coach of the U.S. men's Olympic team and will hold a news conference today at Duke to confirm his return, the Associated Press reported.