LeBron James scored on a layup as time expired in overtime and the Miami Heat defeated the Indiana Pacers 103-102 to win the opening game of the National Basketball Association’s Eastern Conference finals.
Indiana’s Paul George, who had forced overtime by hitting a 3-point shot from about 32 feet (10 meters) with less than a second remaining in the fourth quarter, hit three free throws with 2.2 seconds left in overtime to give Indiana a 102-101 lead and set up James’s game-winning basket.
“It’s my job to go out there and make a shot,” James said in a news conference. “Once I got the ball, I was the only option.”
James, who had scored on a layup with 10 seconds remaining in overtime to give Miami a 101-99 lead, had 30 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds to lead the Heat, while Dwyane Wade had 19 points. George had 27 points and David West added 26 for Indiana last night at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami.
Game 2 in the best-of-seven series is set for tomorrow night at Miami. The winner of the series will play the San Antonio Spurs or the Memphis Grizzlies for the NBA title. San Antonio leads that series two games to none.
“Two great teams just throwing punch for punch,” Indiana coach Frank Vogel said in a news conference. “We know we can play with this basketball team.”
Chris Andersen hit all seven of his shots and scored a career playoff-high 16 points off the bench for Miami.
“This was just one game and we’ve got a whole series to go,” Andersen told reporters. “It ain’t going to be easy.”
Pacers center Roy Hibbert, who had 19 points and nine rebounds, was left on the bench for the final play of the game because Vogel said it gave his team better defensive matchups. Hibbert called the loss “gut-wrenching” and said he wishes he had been in the game at the end to stop James’s winning drive to the basket.
Trailing 42-37 at halftime, the Heat opened the third quarter with a 12-2 run to take a five-point lead -- only to have the Pacers respond with a 14-4 run that gave them a 58-53 lead. Indiana led for the rest of the period and was up 65-64 entering the fourth quarter.
Neither team led by more than four points in the fourth, and a basket by West tied the game 89-89. Wade hit a layup with 42 seconds left and Ray Allen hit one of two free throws with 17 seconds remaining to give Miami a three-point lead and set up George’s tying shot to force the overtime.
Miami starting point guard Mario Chalmers left the game midway through the third period with a bruised left shoulder and did not return.