INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana Pacers played desperately last night.
They relentlessly attacked the basket, continually won the battle for loose balls, dominated the glass and, yes, turned the tables on Miami Heat yet again.
Roy Hibbert finished with 23 points and 12 rebounds, Lance Stephenson added 20 points, and the Pacers closed the game on a 16-6 run to pull away from the defending NBA champs for a 99-92 victory at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse Arena.
Just like that, the Eastern Conference finals are tied at 2 and the pressure has swung back to Miami.
“We’re never going to give up. We’re relentless,” Hibbert said after another big game. “All those guys in there, they believe we can win. No matter what all the analysts or whoever says anything, they count us out, those guys in the locker room were ready to play and we went out and played our hearts out.”
Hibbert will get no argument from coach Frank Vogel, who challenged his team to bring it or go down swinging.
Indiana scored with punch after punch.The Pacers revved up the crowd with an opening 11-0 run, got the Heat in foul trouble and answered every challenge Miami posed in a physical game that had bodies flying, tempers flaring and LeBron James stunned after fouling out of a playoff game for only the second time in his career.
Indiana believed this was the only way it could get back into the best-of-seven series after giving home-court advantage back to Miami two nights earlier.
The players promised to treat Game 4 as if they were playing a decisive seventh game, and it showed.
An angry Paul George uncharacteristically smacked the floor after being called for a foul in the third quarter, leading to a technical foul on Vogel that seemed to get Indiana refocused. The defence continually contested shots by James and his high-scoring teammates. The four-time MVP finished with 24 points but was only 8-of-18 from the field.
And Indiana reverted to its more typical style, holding a 49-30 rebounding advantage and outscoring Miami 50-32 in the paint.
The Heat now face a stunning must-win scenario tomorrow night in Game 5 or will come back to Indy for Game 6 fighting for their playoff lives.
Over the next 48 hours, the Heat will try to figure out what went wrong in a game full of oddities.
Chris Bosh crashed to the court clutching his right knee after a first-half collision. In the second half, he limped to the locker room after appearing to twist his right ankle on a foul call but returned a few minutes later, trying to shake off the injury.
Dwyane Wade limped noticeably during the first half and wound up in foul trouble, too.
Miami’s three All-Stars were a dismal 14-of-39 from the field, even though James spent part of the night being defended by Stephenson because of George’s foul trouble.
Bosh finished with seven points and Wade with 16, and no Miami starter had more than six rebounds.
“We had them right where we wanted them, but every time we would get a stop, especially in the fourth quarter, we didn’t come up with the rebound,” Bosh said. “It was there for us, but we didn’t capitalise.”