INDIANAPOLIS: Paul George scored 21 of his 37 points in the fourth quarter as the Indiana Pacers staved off elimination by beating the two-time defending champion Miami Heat 93-90 on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila).
George also had 31 points in the second half and shot 15-of-28 overall from the floor for the Pacers who still trail the Heat three games to two in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference championship series.
“I just came out firing. My teammates found me and I got hot,” said George. “I felt in rhythm, regardless of who was guarding me. I was just in the zone.”
The playoff series shifts back to southern Florida for game six on Friday (Sturday in Manila).
The Heat are trying to become the fourth team in National Basketball Association history to advance to the finals four straight seasons in a row.
Miami’s LeBron James finished with a career playoff-low of seven points on just two-of-10 shooting as he battled foul trouble throughout.
James played just 25 total minutes as the Heat had to play all of the second and most of the third quarters without their superstar.
“It’s not something I’m accustomed to,” James said of sitting on the bench with foul trouble. “I wasn’t able to make plays and help our team win.”
Indiana needed to overcome a double-digit deficit earlier in the game and a Chris Bosh three-point try in the closing seconds that bounced out of danger.
David West tallied 19 points, Roy Hibbert had 10 points and 13 rebounds while Lance Stephenson scored 12 for the Pacers, who are trying to come back from 3-1 down and win a series for the first time in franchise history.
Rashard Lewis and Dwyane Wade each scored 18 points for the Heat, while Bosh finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds in the loss.
James would like to forget this game as quickly as possible. Not only did he commit five fouls within the first three quarters for the first time in his career but it was just the second time in his career he was held to single digit scoring.
“We are going back home, learn from our mistakes and come back Friday,” said James.
Indiana trailed by 11 during an embarrassing 33-point performance in the first half. They got their offense on track in the third by scoring 31 points in the quarter, including 11 straight at one stage. George capped the surge with a fast break dunk to give the Pacers a 52-50 lead.
His buzzer-beating three-pointer put the Pacers ahead 64-57 at the end of the third.
Another George dunk off a steal pushed Indiana’s lead to 77-66 early in the fourth quarter, but nine consecutive Miami points got the Heat back into it.
Miami pushed hard to try and retake the lead but George was able to counter each time with a key bucket of his own.
“My message to the whole team was the light needs to be on green for all of us,” coach Frank Vogel said. “You need to go, you need to attack, you need to be aggressive. Paul took it and ran with it and took it to a crazy level.”
In the final seconds Miami’s Bosh had a potential go-ahead three-pointer from the corner, but his shot was contested and clanged off the rim.
Hibbert grabbed the rebound, giving the Pacers the victory.