In Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals, bigger was better.
The Indiana Pacers used size and interior strength to outmaneuver the Miami Heat for a 99-92 victory. The win evens up this series at two games apiece, and means the San Antonio Spurs will wait even more time to find out their opponent in the NBA Finals.
The Pacers outrebounded Miami 49-30, and poured in 50 points in the paint to just 32 for the Heat. Both Roy Hibbert and David West posted double-doubles, and all five starters scored in double digits.
Hibbert was the biggest, going for 23 points and 12 rebounds, six on the offensive end. He was simply dominant in controlling the paint, holding Chris Bosh to 1-of-6 shooting and three boards. No matter who played the frontcourt for the Heat, Hibbert came out on top.
West went for 14 points and 12 rebounds, coming up with some big runs to freeze the Heat charge.
Lance Stephenson put in 20 points on 9-of-15 shooting, going toe-to-toe with Dwyane Wade numerous times. George Hill was all over the floor winning 50-50 balls. He finished with 19 points and six assists, grabbing a clutch loose ball late in the game to preserve a possession.
LeBron James put in 24 points before fouling out late in the fourth quarter. Mario Chalmers chipped in 20 points, going 8-of-8 from the line.
The move that has haunted Indiana throughout this series came back to bite them again at the end of the first half. James blew by the perimeter defense with Hibbert sitting on the bench. His 11 points brought the Heat to within one at intermission, 48-47.
Chalmers was having his way with the Pacers' backcourt throughout the game. He netted six points early in the third quarter, pushing the Heat ahead 60-54 with 7:35 to go.
A 10-0 run going the other way, gave the lead right back to Indiana. West scored seven points, getting to the line twice during the streak. A pair of freebies with 4:28 remaining put the Pacers up 64-60.
The end of the third quarter featured a pair of ridiculous plays. First, James raced back and underneath, easily blocking a George Hill layup.
Then at the buzzer, Hill caught Wade out of position and hit Stephenson who launched a prayer from the corner while falling into the courtside seats. His three fell through the net, giving the Pacers a 77-70 lead heading into the final 12 minutes.
With Bosh on the bench nursing an ankle injury, the Pacers continued to go to work in the paint. Ian Mahinmi scored on a put-back, and Hibbert tossed in a nice little hook to put Indiana ahead 81-72 at the nine-minute mark.
A questionable shot-clock violation once again changed the game's momentum, this time in the favor of the Heat. Despite a Pacer shot attempt hitting the rim late in the possession, the clock was not reset and the referees ruled it Miami's ball. This set off an 11-2 run by the Heat, who deadlocked the game at 83 with 6:15 left, with James connecting on a three to tie it.
Having himself another great game, Stephenson helped the Pacers withstand a ridiculous Ray Allen trey. His jumper with 3:28 left knotted the game at 89. Allen finished 4-of-13 on the night with 11 points.
The paint train kept chugging right along for Indiana. Thanks to some timely offensive rebounding, the Pacers got three shots out of one possession, which ended with a Hibbert basket and a foul. Hibbert's three-point play put Indiana up 94-89 with 90 seconds to go.
James drilled an enormous three to cut the deficit to just two, but after another Stephenson bucket, LeBron fouled out, knocking down Stephenson while setting a shaky screen to free up Wade. The league's MVP was done for the night; Udonis Haslem replaced him with just 56 seconds remaining.
Things continued to go off track for Miami: Wade was whistled for a traveling violation with under 30 seconds left and Indiana up, 96-92.
Paul George, who had a surprisingly quiet game given his series so far, sank a pair of free throws to ice things over for Indiana. The Pacers have earned a trip back to Miami Thursday night, and the right to play a best of three series for a trip to the Finals.
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