INDIANAPOLIS — If this were a preview of the NBA Eastern Conference finals, there promises to be plenty of high drama and high-level action.
Indiana and Miami performed at a playoff level Wednesday night in sold-out Bankers Life Fieldhouse, and the Pacers rallying in the final minutes for an 84-83 victory over the Heat.
Indiana (52-20) now holds a three-game lead over the Heat (48-22) in the race for the East’s top playoff seed.
The outcome hung in the balance until Miami forward Chris Bosh missed a potential game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer after Indiana guard George Hill missed two free throws with 2.3 seconds to play.
Indiana, 33-4 at home this season, got consecutive field goals from guard Evan Turner with 2:03 and 1:30 left, and the Pacers took an 81-80 lead.
Pacers forward David West extended the margin to four by hitting a 3-pointer with 50 seconds to play.
Bosh’s 3-pointer brought the Heat within 84-83 with 2.9 seconds left, and then Hill couldn’t hit either of his free throws.
Miami inbounded the ball at half-court to forward LeBron James, who passed to Bosh for a chance at victory. The shot was short, and Indiana survived.
James led all scorers with 38 points. Forward Paul George led the Pacers with 23 points, center Roy Hibbert added 21, guard Lance Stephenson scored 15, and West finished with 13.
James’s floater in the lane to begin the fourth quarter gave the Heat a 70-63 lead, the Pacers countered with a 6-0 burst, capped by a George dunk, cutting the deficit to 70-69 with 9:35 remaining.
After two more James free throws gave the Heat a 72-69 lead, the Pacers went on a 7-0 run to lead 76-72 on a Stephenson field goal at the 5:01 mark.
Stephenson, however, was whistled for technical foul seconds later, and Miami countered with an 8-0 burst, which included a James 3-pointer.
With 3:23 to play, the Heat led 80-76.
Indiana got 13 first-quarter points from Hibbert to lead 23-17 after 12 minutes, but James countered with a 12-point second quarter to help Miami seize a 45-44 advantage at halftime.
NOTES: Entering Wednesday’s game, Miami and Indiana each had six victories in the past 12 meetings featuring the best in the East, with the Heat averaging 93.3 points and the Pacers averaging 92 points. … Miami G Dwyane Wade (strained left Achilles) was in the starting lineup, which was expected. He scored 15 points. … Pacers coach Frank Vogel said that C Andrew Bynum, who is battling continued soreness and swelling in his right knee, is expected to play again this season but not in the immediate future … The starting time for the Pacers’ April 13 home game against F Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder was changed to 1 p.m. ET from 6 p.m. The game will be televised by ABC.
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