MIAMI — David West’s right hand helped the Indiana Pacers grab home-court advantage in the Eastern Conference finals.
Roy Hibbert scored 29 points, West knocked away two passes by LeBron James for huge turnovers in the final minute, and the Pacers evened the East title series with a 97-93 victory over the Miami Heat in Game 2 of the series on Friday night.
Paul George scored 22 points, George Hill added 18 and West finished with 13 for the Pacers, who handed the Heat just their fourth loss in their last 50 games.
The series resumes with Game 3 on Sunday night in Indianapolis.
James scored 36 points for the Heat, who got 17 points from Chris Bosh and 14 from Dwyane Wade. The Heat led 88-84 in the fourth quarter, then were outscored 13-5 the rest of the way.
And West was the biggest reason.
With Indiana up 95-93, West intercepted a pass that James was throwing to Ray Allen with 43 seconds left, but the Pacers didn’t even get a shot off on the ensuing possession. In fact, Indiana may have gotten a bit lucky that the shot clock expired with the ball rolling around – if Wade had collected the ball in time, he had Mario Chalmers all alone at the other end in position to almost certainly tie the game.
On the next Miami possession, James drove to the right block, spun and tried passing out toward the perimeter.
He released the ball, and West got his right hand on it to knock it off-course. Immediately afterward, West took that same hand and extended it in celebration.
The Pacers – just as they did in the second-round series last year – knew they were winning Game 2 in Miami. Hill made two free throws with 8.3 seconds left to clinch it, and just like that, Miami’s home-court advantage was gone.
The Heat trailed for virtually all of the game’s first 30 minutes, then tied the game three times in the third quarter – but Indiana always had a response.
When the game was tied at 60, the Pacers scored seven of the next 10 points. Tied at 67, George quickly had a layup to put the Pacers back on top. Tied at 69, George struck again, this time with a jumper.
With 5.1 seconds left in the third, George drove the lane and finished a highlight-reel dunk over Miami’s Chris Andersen while getting fouled, the free throw putting the Pacers up by five. James connected on a long 3-pointer to close the quarter, then he and George exchanged a few words afterward and slapped each other’s hand as if to say, “here we go.”
Sure enough, the show was just getting started.
Hibbert was creating one problem after another for Miami, so James took it upon himself to find a solution in the fourth. And with about 8 minutes left, he swatted a putback attempt away from the 7-foot-2 Indiana center, starting a play that ended with Chalmers scoring at the other end to give Miami an 85-84 lead.
On the next possession, James tied up a rebound with Hibbert, then won the ensuing jump ball. Not long afterward, Bosh made a 3-pointer and Miami’s lead was up to 88-84 — its biggest of the night.
Indiana scored the next five points to reclaim the lead. James’ three-point play with 3:32 left put the Heat on top 91-89, and Hibbert answered that with a jump hook over the reigning MVP to tie the game for the 10th time.
If there was any remaining lament from losing Game 1 on the final play of overtime, the Pacers made sure it didn’t show. They trailed for all of 15 seconds in the first half, and after neither team held a lead of more than seven in the series opener, Indiana found itself leading by 10 late in the first quarter and by 13 with a minute to go before intermission.
Hibbert was either unguarded or unguardable, making six of his eight shots in the first two quarters and getting to the line on the way to a 19-point half. West, Hill and George combined for 27 more before the break, and when Hibbert scored with 1:25 left the Pacers’ lead was 53-40.
The Heat needed less than a minute to erase more than half of that deficit.
James made a pair of free throws with 59.1 seconds left, Chalmers had a layup and Mike Miller — who hadn’t taken a shot since May 8, but checked in with 3:23 remaining in the half after Allen and Shane Battier continued to struggle from the outside — connected on a 3-pointer as time expired, pulling Miami within 53-47 at the break.
And when Indiana went up nine early in the third quarter, Miami responded with another burst, this time an 11-2 run highlighted by a spectacular reverse dunk by James and capped by two baskets from Wade, the last of which knotted the game at 60-all.
By then, it was clear.
Just like Game 1, this one wouldn’t be decided until the end.