Paul George scored 31 of his 37 points in the second half, including 21 in the fourth quarter, and almost single-handedly kept the Indiana Pacers alive in the NBA’s Eastern Conference finals with a 93-90 victory over the Miami Heat on Wednesday. The Pacers still trail 3-2 in the best-of-seven series. Game 6 will be played Friday night in Miami.
It took a frantic effort just to extend the series, even with the foul-plagued LeBron James held to just seven points in 23 minutes. Chris Bosh led the Heat with 20 points, but missed a potential go-ahead 3-pointer in the closing seconds. Indiana turned a 50-41 deficit into a 64-57 lead after three quarters, then led by as many as 11 in the fourth. Miami’s last-ditch rally made it 91-90 with 16 seconds to go, but Indiana managed to hold on.
George’s 21 fourth-quarter points were the most ever scored in one quarter of a playoff game against Miami. The previous best was 20 by the Bulls’ Michael Jordan in May 1997.
“We just played. Our backs are against the wall right now so that’s all we can do,” George said. “We were in a position that if we lost this game, we’re going home so I think that was in the backs of everybody’s minds.”
David West added 19 points for the Pacers and Roy Hibbert had 10 points and 13 rebounds. Miami will now try to clinch its fourth straight Eastern Conference title at home.
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The Pacers played like a desperate team trying to save their season. They chased shooters all over the floor, ran down loose balls, even put themselves in harm’s way. Lance Stephenson appeared to hurt his left shoulder in the third quarter after a hard fall and still finished the game.
Until George came alive in the second half, it looked like the Heat would close out the series with a fourth straight win. But unlike Game 2, when the Pacers couldn’t stop Dwyane Wade and James late, the Pacers fended off the closing charge from the two-time defending champs — barely.
George’s incredible ability to hit big shot after big shot and a defense that refused to give the lead away late eventually saved the Pacers.