MIAMI: The Indiana Pacers bounced back from a heart-breaking game one defeat to edge LeBron James and the Miami Heat 97-93 on Friday and level the NBA Eastern Conference finals at one game apiece.
With the win in Miami, the Pacers seized home court advantage in the best-of-seven series from the reigning league champions, and they will try to maintain the momentum when they host game three on Sunday.
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.
“This whole team has just shown great desire,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said of his young squad, who had fallen 103-102 to the Heat on Wednesday.
“They believe we can win this series, and they’re giving it all their might, all their might.”
James, who earned NBA Most Valuable Player honors this season for the fourth time in his career, was forced into two crucial turnovers in the final 43 seconds.
Roy Hibbert, who was on the bench when James provided the game-winning layup in overtime in the series opener, delivered a dominant performance, leading the Pacers with 29 points and 10 rebounds.
George Hill scored 18 for the Pacers and David West added 13 points and seven rebounds—and forced the two late turnovers by James.
West stole a pass from James with 42.9 seconds left and Indiana ahead 95-93, although the Pacers did not score from the ensuing possession.
On Miami’s next possession, with the Heat needing a field goal to tie the game, West batted away another James pass with 8.3 seconds remaining.
Hill came up with the ball and was then fouled by James, calmly making his free throws to seal the win.
James scored a game-high 36 points with eight rebounds, but also had five of Miami’s 15 turnovers.
“Very disappointing, of course, for me. That’s the first thing I always look at on the stat sheet is my turnovers,” James said. “I had two key ones at a big point of the game. I am very disappointed in my judgment and my plays down the stretch. But I’ll make up for them.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Miami’s problems went deeper.
“It’s not just those two plays,” Spoelstra said. “We just didn’t finish the game like we’re capable of. We’re supposed to find a way to close out those games and we didn’t.”
Chris Bosh scored 17 points and Dwyane Wade added 14— the only other Heat players to score in double figures.
The Pacers, meanwhile, shot 50 percent for the game, holding the advantage in rebounding and converting 26 of 32 from the foul line.
But a four-minute stretch in the fourth quarter without a basket saw Miami seize a four-point lead with less than six minutes to play.
Lance Stephenson drained a three-pointer with 5:25 remaining to pull the Pacers within one, and Hibbert’s layup put them ahead again.
James converted a three-point play that gave Miami a two-point lead with 3:32 to play, but that was their last lead of the night.
Hibbert and West scored back-to-back baskets for Indiana. Bosh responded with two free-throws to knot the score at 93-93.
Hill drew a foul and went to the line to sink a pair of free throws with 48.9 seconds remaining. Down by two, Miami turned to James, but this time he couldn’t come through.
“We’re young guys, but we know what we’re doing,” Hibbert said. “They could be the champs, but we’re coming for them.”