INDIANAPOLIS — Roy Hibbert had 19 points and 18 rebounds, George Hill scored 20 and Danny Granger 17 as the Indiana Pacers, showing more balance, toughness and togetherness than Miami, throttled the Heat 94-75 on Thursday night in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Overlooked during the regular season and given little chance to upset the reigning East champions, the Pacers took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Game 4 is Sunday at raucous Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
LeBron James scored 22 – 16 in the first half before wearing down – and Mario Chalmers added 25 for Miami. However, Dwyane Wade scored only 5 on 2 of 13 shooting for the Heat, already missing forward Chris Bosh because of a strained abdominal muscle and not expected to return for this series.
Indiana outscored Miami 51-32 in the second half, when the Pacers could do no wrong.
They made big shots, challenged everything the Heat tossed in the air and didn’t back down from a Miami team that appeared poised to make an easy run to the NBA Finals after top-seeded Chicago lost Derrick Rose and was eliminated in the first round.
The Pacers, though, have other plans.
In the second half, Indiana forward David West flung James to the floor in the lane, and Granger later got in the superstar’s face after a foul on a breakaway.
After winning Game 2 in South Florida by three points, the Pacers wanted to show they’re for real.
HAIRCUT SUSPENSION: A 12-year-old Texas boy who was suspended from school after shaving his head to resemble the face of Spurs forward Matt Bonner scored tickets to a playoff game and props from his favorite player.
Patrick Gonzalez was suspended for a day from Woodlake Hills Middle School because the district deemed his $75 haircut a distraction. He returned to class Thursday after reluctantly shaving his head.
Gonzalez says Bonner is his favorite player, noting they’re both redheads.
Bonner, whose mother is a teacher, says the school could have just moved Gonzalez to the back of the room. Bonner sent Gonzalez a message, saying: “Keep supporting us redheads in the NBA.”
Gonzalez’s story prompted the Spurs to give him and his family tickets to Thursday’s playoff game against the Clippers.