The Indiana Pacers staved off elimination in a wild 93-90 Game 5 victory over the Miami Heat Wednesday night.
After scoring just 11 points in the second quarter and trailing by nine points at halftime, the Pacers erupted for 31 points in the third period, outscoring the Heat by 16 during that span.
And despite a vicious Miami comeback effort that included 33 fourth-quarter points, the Pacers were able to hang on after Chris Bosh missed a potential game-winning three from the right corner with seconds remaining.
"Just gonna take one game at a time and believe in each other," Pacers guard Lance Stephenson said following the win, according to the Pacers' official Twitter account.
Paul George was simply sensational in 45 minutes, scoring a game-high 37 points, including 31 in the second half.
Conversely, LeBron James scored a postseason career-low seven points in 24 minutes after sitting out considerable portions of both halves due to foul trouble.
Following the Pacers' outcry about the free-throw disparity in Game 4, Indiana attempted 22 freebies and made 13 (59.1 percent) as the Heat were called for 24 personal fouls. The Pacers were called for 16 personal fouls as Miami shot 7-of-8 (87.5 percent) from the charity stripe.
The Pacers and Heat shot 47.4 and 45.3 percent from the field, respectively, while Miami converted on 48.4 percent of its attempts from three.
Players are graded on a conventional A-to-F scale, with each contributor starting at a C and moving up or down based on the quality of his performance.
However, it's important to note role players and reserves are graded on a curve due to their smaller allotment of minutes.
Key Players: Miami Heat
LeBron James, Small Forward
Miami's postseason leader in points, rebounds and assists per game, LeBron James opened a shaky 1-of-5 from the field during a first quarter in which the Heat simply looked out of sync on offense.
That said, his slam to open the scoring was rather emphatic:
A second personal foul with 2:43 remaining in the period forced James to the bench, which opened the door for Dwyane Wade to try to straighten things out offensively.
And after re-entering just minutes into the second quarter, James was forced to exit with 6:03 remaining in the first half after being called for a charge against Paul George.
A fourth foul 21 seconds into the third quarter could have complicated things further, but Erik Spoelstra decided to let his star play things out. Which turned out to be a tough call in hindsight after James recorded a fifth foul with 8:34 remaining in the third period.
Limited to seven points in 24 minutes while doling out four assists and pulling down two rebounds, Game 5 could easily go down as one of the weirdest (and possibly the worst) game of LeBron's postseason career.
Dwyane Wade, Shooting Guard
The last Heat starter into the scoring column, Wade missed his first three shots from the floor while committing two turnovers during a brutal first-quarter showing.
But when James took a seat, Wade started to blossom, quickly pouring in eight points in the span of three minutes.
Tasked with manning the offensive controls with James sidelined, Wade put forth a nice final line that consisted of 18 points (7-of-14 shooting), eight rebounds, seven assists, two steals and a game-high six turnovers.
Were it not for an elevated fourth-quarter performance that included a couple of rare three-pointers and some strong transition play, his grade would have likely dropped a bit.
Chris Bosh, Center
Chris Bosh had his coming-out party in Game 4 by thrashing Roy Hibbert outside of the paint.
According to NBA.com, Bosh scored 10 points on 17 touches against Hibbert on Monday and shot 67 percent from the field.
Searching to produce similar numbers in a closeout game, Bosh was given bundles of space on the perimeter by the Pacers defense.
With Hibbert slinking off of Bosh above the free-throw line, the versatile outside shot-maker used his fearless mindset to fire away, scoring 20 points on 9-of-21 shooting.
In fact, all four of Bosh's first-half conversions came from outside of the paint.
The consistency certainly wasn't always there, but with Indiana not stepping into Bosh on defense and letting him fire away, you can't knock him for taking the looks when they were so wide open.
Ten rebounds, two dimes and two steals rounded out Bosh's final line as he finished a team-best plus-10.
Mario Chalmers, Point Guard
It's typically easy for Mario Chalmers to get lost in the shuffle of the Heat offense, but credit the point man for holding his own when the going got tough.
Not only did Chalmers tally five points and three rebounds in the first half, but he dropped a couple of historically significant dimes:
There was nothing mind-blowing about Chalmers' game, but consistency was more than welcome considering the adversity his team faced throughout.
He wound up tallying eight points (3-of-4 shooting), five assists and eight rebounds in 35 minutes.
Ray Allen, Sixth Man
A game-time decision due to a hip injury, Ray Allen didn't get on the board until four minutes into the second quarter after a broken play resulted in an open corner three.
And watching that one drop must have worked wonders for Allen's psyche, because he proceeded to score seven straight points en route to a five-point Heat lead.
Miami's leading scorer in the first half (10 points on 4-of-7 shooting, 2-of-3 from three), Allen helped lift the Heat offense behind 15 points (5-of-11 shooting, 3-of-6 from three) and two rebounds in a strong showing off the bench.
Rashard Lewis, Power Forward
A 26-minute performance in Game 4 that yielded zero points on five shots was disappointing for Rashard Lewis, but it's important to remember the Heat have been quite solid with him in the lineup.
According to NBA.com, Miami's plus/minus rating with Lewis on the floor in the postseason entering Wednesday night clocked in at plus-6.3, which jibes with his rating of plus-14 in Game 4.
Miami finished even with Lewis on the floor as he avenged his scoreless Game 4 by dropping 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting from three to go with four rebounds.
The disappointing part is that this could have been Lewis' time to shine at the podium had the Heat not squandered their halftime lead with LeBron on the bench.
With Chris Andersen inactive yet again due to a left thigh contusion, the Heat were forced to go smaller than usual yet again.
But that wasn't necessarily bad news, as NBA.com pointed out prior to tipoff:
Udonis Haslem didn't contribute much (four points, two rebounds), and Shane Battier was predictably quiet from a statistical standpoint (zero points, one board), but Norris Cole brought some nice defensive intensity once again.
Matched up against the larger Lance Stephenson, Cole showed no fear. And while his offensive contributions were few and far between (zero points, three assists), but his ability to body up Stephenson was welcomed in spots.
Also worth noting: Michael Beasley finished a minus-four in three minutes.
Key Players: Indiana Pacers
Paul George, Small Forward
After allowing eight drives to James in Game 4, per NBA.com, George needed to step up with a superlative effort on defense.
James' early trip to the pine made things easier on George, who essentially recorded half of a double-double in the first quarter, scoring six points to go with four rebounds.
A scoreless second quarter with James on the bench was totally deflating as the Pacers floundered horrifically over the game's second 12-minute stretch.
And then the second half started.
George's deep three-pointer that capped a 31-point third quarter for Indiana really got the swingman going, and it helped lead to a game-high 37 points on 15-of-28 shooting. He added six rebounds, two assists and a game-high six steals to his final line.
It was really a tale of two halves for George, but his confidence skyrocketed as the Pacers started to find themselves with more concerted efforts on both ends of the floor.
We won't hesitate to call this his signature game of the series.
Lance Stephenson, Shooting Guard
Stephenson's admission that his comments directed toward James were a mistake were too little, too late, especially after LeBron crushed Indiana in all areas on Monday night.
"It's part of the game," Stephenson continued, according to the Indianapolis Star's Zak Keefer. "I think I said some things that shouldn't have been said. Also Paul (George). We just gotta play basketball and stop worrying about all the other stuff."
Well, to say the Pacers "played basketball" during the first half would be a stretch. Because with an offense that was stifled by slow rotations, little ball movement and poor shot selection, no one was able to establish a rhythm.
Fortunately, an injection of energy in the third quarter fueled a bit of an offensive revival, but Stephenson looked like he was more interested in complaining more often than not.
A victorious outcome helped overshadow some of Stephenson's maddening tendencies, but his strong defense on Wade combined with 12 points (4-of-11 shooting), five rebounds and five assists earned him above-average marks.
Roy Hibbert, Center
Before we get to Hibbert's Game 5 performance, consider this fascinating statistical factoid, courtesy of ESPN's Tom Haberstroh:
On Wednesday, Hibbert came up empty on a point-blank look inside the paint for his first miss of the game before missing an up-and-under.
However, Hibbert's lack of offensive productivity early was mitigated by a strong activity level on the glass. With five rebounds in the game's first six minutes, Hibbert helped set the tone as Indiana out-rebounded Miami, 16-6, in the first quarter.
With Hibbert being force-fed on the blocks in terribly ineffective ways (10 points on 4-of-11 shooting), the Pacers' offense was stymied by a lack of ball movement once again.
And although things picked up considerably for the Pacers during a major third-quarter turnaround, Hibbert's double-double finish (game-high 13 rebounds) helped veil his inefficiencies on the blocks, particularly when double-teamed.
David West, Power Forward
David West sure was happy to see Lewis guarding him in Game 4, because he dropped 16 points on a cool 7-of-11 shooting in 8:04 of matchup time against him, according to NBA.com.
With those numbers in mind, it was fair to expect West to come out and attack once again.
His numbers didn't quite balloon the same way they did in Game 4, but West remained a consistent contributor once again, scoring 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting to go with nine rebounds and two steals.
With a heavier focus on getting Hibbert more involved on the blocks, West's production took an understandable hit.
The fact that he remained determined and still managed to produce strong figures in a slightly marginalized role boosts his grade.
George Hill, Point Guard
All five Pacers starters scored at least four points in the game's opening quarter, and that included the team's point guard.
Attacking the rim off the dribble, Hill helped the Pacers match their Game 4 point total in the paint (12) during the first period of Game 5, according to ESPN's Kevin Pelton.
A prayer from beyond the arc was Hill's most noteworthy highlight of the night, but his consistency relative to that of his teammates earns him decent marks.
Hill finished with a respectable nine points (4-of-9 shooting), seven rebounds and just one assist.
C.J. Watson, Sixth Man
Inconsistency has been the name of the game for C.J. Watson throughout the Eastern Conference Finals, so his final line is nothing to be surprised about.
After a scoreless first half (minus-nine in 10 minutes during that span), Watson didn't do anything to help in the second half, failing to score a point or record an assist in the win.
Here's how you know things were bad for Indiana's second unit: The Heat were plus-11 during LeBron's first stint on the bench, which spanned the latter stages of the first quarter and opening minutes of the second.
We'd be remiss if we didn't praise Luis Scola, though, for his effort on offense in tandem with West was quite steady during his 17 minutes on the floor.
Six points on 3-of-6 shooting in addition to four rebounds comprised the bulk of Scola's Game 5 journey, which was really the only positive off the pine for Indiana.
Rasual Butler and Ian Mahinmi both failed to register points, and Scola was the only Indiana reserve to score.
What's Up Next?
Game 6 tips off at 8:30 p.m. ET on Friday night. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.
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