LeBron James delivered in the nick of time. James hit the game-winning layup as time expired in overtime Wednesday, lifting the Miami Heat to a thrilling 103-102 victory over the visiting Indiana Pacers in the opener of the Eastern Conference finals.
"Two teams fought hard," said James after collecting 30 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for his ninth career playoff triple-double. "We were able to make one more play."
The Heat trailed by a point after Paul George converted three free throws on a questionable foul by Dwyane Wade with 2.2 seconds left in the extra session.
James received the inbound pass out of a timeout against George, who was overplaying him. The league most valuable player took one dribble down the left side, and with the Pacers opting to sit 7-foot-2 shot-blocking centre Roy Hibbert, James easily kissed the ball off the glass for the uncontested difference-maker.
"I knew I had time," James explained. "I had 2.2 seconds to get to the rim. I saw George was out of place, leaning and I just took off."
"Lebron made a good play," George said. "I was up too close to him. You have to make him shoot a jumper that's what we wanted."
Up until then, George was the hero of the night, hitting a 30-foot, 3-pointer with seven tenths of a second left that forced overtime at 92-apiece. And, those three free throws in the final seconds that put the Pacers in a position to steal home-court advantage away from the defending NBA Champs.
But James came to the rescue and George took the blame for the heart-breaking loss.
"Everything we did to battle back to that point was in our favour to win the game," said George, who poured in 25 of his 27 points in the second half. "We felt comfortable, we were going to take care of business but I slipped up at the end."
Wade scored 19 points, Chris Bosh added 17 while backup centre Chris Andersen finished with career post-season-best 16 for the Heat, who know they are in for a battle against the rugged Pacers.
"This is the Eastern Conference finals," Wade said. "We can expect this for seven games."
George got help from David West with 26 points, while Roy Hibbert finished with 19 and nine rebounds for the Pacers, who will look to get even in game 2 on Friday in Miami.
"Two great teams just throwing punch for punch," Indiana coach Frank Vogel said. "Our spirit is very high, very confident. We know we can play with this basketball team."
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