During Game 5, Paul George became unconscious in the second half, scoring 31 of his game-high 37 points. Roy Hibbert—yes, that Roy Hibbert—had a double-double. LeBron James committed five fouls in his first 13 minutes of play, stumbling to seven points and arguably the worst playoff game of his career. Lance Stephenson, even just for a micro-second, seemed to frustrate James with his mind games.
Michael Beasley—yes, that Michael Beasley—stepped onto the court. While the game was going on. On purpose.
Nearly everything went right for the Indiana Pacers Wednesday night at home, and they still needed a last-second miss from Chris Bosh to win the game.
Heat players had a very calm demeanor about this game. Under circumstances, had chance to win. Still feeling confident.— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) May 29, 2014
Even with the victory, it wasn't exactly a hope-instilling performance from Frank Vogel's side moving forward to Game 6.
Game 6 Date: Friday, May 30
Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
Where: AmericanAirlines Arena, Miami, Florida
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Just how rare was LeBron's foul-riddled outing Wednesday? As NBA.com's John Schuhmann noted, it was never-in-his-career rare:
Never in his career had LeBron picked up 5 fouls before the end of the 3rd Q. Had picked up 4 29 times in 992 career games.— John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) May 29, 2014
Despite his absence—he really didn't make an imprint on this game until the final 10 minutes—the Heat were remarkably efficient on offense against one of the league's best D's. They finished with an offensive rating of 106.5, a number good enough to win on many nights.
And it almost was.
"My teammates kept us going and put us in a position to win," James told reporters, via the South Florida Sun Sentinel's Ira Winderman. "We had a great look. (Chris Bosh) makes that shot, we get a stop, and we go to the Finals."
Miami still moved the ball sharply and surgically, finding open threes whenever it wanted. Rashard Lewis knocked down six treys, and the Heat hit 15-of-31 as a team, continuing to prove that the offense as a whole can be more dangerous than the individual parts.
Now, this is more of a refusal to discredit Miami than it is to credit Indiana. The Pacers—and George in particular—were very impressive on the night.
George recorded six steals, three of which were in the backcourt and went for an easy breakaway basket. As NBA.com's Couper Moorhead noted, that was one of the differences in the game:
For all the weird things that happened in that game, Heat don't lose if they don't give up a bunch of free points off backcourt turnovers.— Couper Moorhead (@CoupNBA) May 29, 2014
The defensive energy translated to offensive production. George looked like a long Stephen Curry down the stretch, scoring 21 in the fourth and hitting two clutch contested threes in the final two minutes to keep Indiana ahead at a comfortable distance.
"My message to the whole team was the light needs to be on green for all of us," Vogel told reporters, per the Associated Press, via ESPN.com. "You need to go, you need to attack, you need to be aggressive. Paul took it and ran with it and took it to a crazy level."
It's not entirely out of the question that the elimination-game desperation turned a switch on and George continues to play like this in Game 6. If he does, the Pacers will be difficult to beat, with or without 40 minutes of LeBron.
Still, as Moorhead pointed out, it wasn't a bad defensive performance from Miami:
We'll see what SportVU says in the morning (when #'s are official) but by my count 10 of Paul George's 15 baskets were contested jumpers.— Couper Moorhead (@CoupNBA) May 29, 2014
George was just en fuego. Again, can he keep that up? Sure, but 8-of-10 shooting in the fourth quarter isn't something he's likely to repeat.
How will Game 6 play out?
As we saw from Game 3 to 4 with Miami, a big second half can carry over to the next contest. And Indiana, at least offensively, is cooking right now.
Nevertheless, there was nothing Wednesday that indicated the Heat aren't still the same dominant team from earlier in the series. The Pacers need lightning to strike twice to extend this series Friday.
That won't happen.
Prediction: Miami 103, Indiana 93