MIAMI: James drove for a game-winning layup as time expired to give the Miami Heat a thrilling 103-102 overtime win over the Indiana Pacers Wednesday in game one of the NBA Eastern Conference finals.
James, recently named regular season Most Valuable Player for the fourth time, lived up to the billing with his buzzer-beating exploit, ensuring the reigning NBA champions retained home court advantage in the best-of-seven series.
James finished with 30 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for the ninth post-season triple-double of his career.
Paul George had given Indiana a 102-101 lead with three clutch free throws with 2.2 seconds left in overtime.
But after a timeout, the Heat inbounded the ball and got it into their superstar’s hands—and James did not disappoint.
With George just out of position defensively, James whirled and attacked the basket, making the left-handed shot to seal the victory.
“It was a great game for us,” James said. “Two teams fought hard, we just were able to make one more play than they made.”
George had sent the game into overtime with a three-pointer in the last second of regulation.
“I grabbed him after the game and told him to quickly forget about the last play,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said of George, who led the Pacers with 27 points.
“He’s a third-year player and he’s playing the best player in the world, somebody who’s going to go down as arguably one of the best players in the history of the game and he’s playing him toe-to-toe and just competing his tail off . . . I’m just very, very proud of his whole effort.”
George acknowledged he “slipped up.”
“He made a good play,” George said. “You’ve got to make LeBron shoot a jumper at that point.”
The winner of the series advances to the NBA finals to take on the Western Conference champions for the league crown. San Antonio lead Memphis 2-0 in the Western finals.
“It’s just one game,” James said, already looking ahead to the next game on Friday. “We’re excited about the win, but we have to get better going into game two.”
Dwyane Wade added 19 points for Miami, while Chris Bosh chipped in 17 and reserve Chris Anderson scored 16 on 7-of-7 shooting. David West scored 26 and Roy Hibbert added 19 for Indiana.
After forcing overtime with his three-pointer, George opened overtime with a brace of free throws to give Indiana a 94-92 lead.
Heat center Chris Andersen made two free-throws to knot the score at 94-94, but Pacers center Roy Hibbert’s basket again put the visitors ahead 96-94.
Wade’s layup tied it again, but George responded with a driving layup, drawing a foul and making the free-throw to put Indiana ahead 99-96 with 2:05 remaining.
Bosh then scored on a second-chance basket and was fouled. He, too, converted the free-throw to tie it with 49.7 seconds left.
A layup by James gave the Heat a 101-99 lead with 10.8 seconds remaining. After a scramble in which it seemed the Heat had made a steal, George emerged with the ball and went up for a three-point attempt but was fouled by Wade.
George calmly stepped up to the line and made all three foul shots, but in the end he just couldn’t stop James.
“That one hurts,” George said.