MIAMI (AP) — David West was more than a little disappointed when the Indiana Pacers failed to make a defensive play at the end to win Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.
So in Game 2, he made those plays himself. Twice, in fact.
And he victimized the game’s best player to make them happen.
LeBron James had two turnovers in the last minute — both when passes that he called “careless” got broken up by West — and the Miami Heat lost both a game and the home-court edge in the series. Roy Hibbert scored a postseason career-high 29 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, and the Pacers beat the Heat 97-93 in Game 2 of the East finals on Friday night.
“I made two mistakes tonight that hurt our team,” James said. “And that hurt more than anything. I let my teammates down. They expect me to make plays down the stretch and I had the ball with an opportunity to make a couple plays, and I came up short.
“That burns, but the best thing about it is, this isn’t college. It’s not one loss and you’re done. I have another opportunity to get better in Game 3.”
James led all scorers with 36 points, but his night will be remembered by the two passes where he tried to find Ray Allen and got denied by West’s hands both times.
With Indiana up 95-93, West intercepted a pass that James tried to swing toward Allen with 43 seconds left. Indiana didn’t cash in that mistake, instead turning the ball over with a shot-clock violation.
So on the next Miami trip, West denied James — again.
James drove to the right block, spun and tried passing out toward the perimeter. West got his right hand on that pass, knocking it off-course and into the hands of George Hill, then extended his hand skyward.
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, the series was tied.
Game 1, Miami won it with James coming through at the end.
Game 2, the Pacers simply took away the MVP’s opportunity.
“We’ve been able to maintain our composure throughout the year,” West said. “That’s helped us throughout these playoffs and especially in environments like these.”
Paul George scored 22 points, Hill added 18 and West finished with 13 for the Pacers, who handed the Heat just their fourth loss in their last 50 games, closed the game on a 13-5 run — and denied one of the game’s best playmakers twice in the final moments.
“There’s only like one person that’s more scarier than that,” Hill said, speaking of James. “And that’s, you know, God.”
The series resumes with Game 3 on Sunday night in Indianapolis.
“It’s one of the best basketball games I’ve ever been a part of,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “It wasn’t about LeBron making mistakes down the stretch. He played one of the best basketball games I’ve ever seen anybody play. We were just able to make a couple plays late in the game.”
The Heat got 17 points from Chris Bosh and 14 from Dwyane Wade and led by four in the fourth quarter after trailing by as many as 13 in the early going. And afterward, they said there was no problem with James’ passes.
“Nothing broke down,” Wade said. “He’s going to be hard on himself. He saw guys open, but West was able to get his arms out there at the last moment.”
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.
“We had our chance tonight,” said Bosh.
Hibbert was creating one problem after another for Miami, so James took it upon himself to challenge him 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.
“We just didn’t finish the game like we’re capable of,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
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.
Frantic to the finish, again. And this time it went Indiana’s way.
“Heck of a basketball game, wasn’t it?” Vogel asked afterward.
NOTES: South Florida resident Jozy Altidore of the U.S. men’s national soccer team was among those in attendance, two days before he’s set to report to Cleveland and begin training camp for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers. Other celebs in the crowd included newly retired football star and Miami Hurricanes great Ray Lewis, Baseball Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. and Rosie O’Donnell. … The Pacers were called for four technicals (one a defensive 3-second) in a 4-minute span of the second quarter. … Indiana reserve Sam Young sprained his left ankle in the third quarter. … Indiana was not planning to fly home after the game, instead staying in Miami one more night and avoiding getting back to Indianapolis around 4 a.m. or even later.