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James' monster third quarter gives Heat 3-2 edge

The SportsXchange

MIAMI -- There is a reason LeBron James is the league's MVP, and he showed it again in the third quarter Thursday -- with his play and his leadership.

The Heat superstar scored 16 of his 30 points in the period to lead Miami to a 90-79 win over the Indiana Pacers at AmericanAirlines Arena, pushing the underdog Pacers to the brink of elimination.

Miami leads the Eastern Conference Finals series 3-2 and has a chance to advance if it can beat the Pacers on Saturday night in Indianapolis.

If the Pacers are to win the series, they will have to beat the Heat twice in a row, including a potential Game 7 in Miami on Monday night. But the Heat haven't lost two in a row since Jan. 8 and 10, when they fell at Indiana and at Portland.

James made 13 of 26 shots, including three of seven 3-point attempts. He also had eight rebounds and six assists. About the only place he performed poorly was at the foul line -- he made just one of four free throws.

"LeBron's engine in that third quarter was incredible," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "That was him showing his greatness and making it look easy.

"He was tireless -- rebounding, covering so much ground defensively and making virtually every play for us offensively. It was remarkable and a testament to his conditioning and his greatness."

James outscored the Pacers by himself in the third quarter, 16-13. He also scored or assisted on 25 of the Heat's 30 points in the period.

"He was pretty special," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. "His whole team is special. That's one of the best teams this league has ever seen.

"We know we can beat them, but we have to play better than we did tonight. We were out of sync in that third quarter, and that was where the game was decided."

Some of James' assists were to Udonis Haslem, who made five of five shots in the third period, including baseline jumpers on three straight possessions.

Surprisingly, Haslem credited a reserve player who has yet to step on the court in the playoffs for being key to the win.

"It all started at halftime with the words from Juwan Howard," Haslem said. "He also threw a couple things around in the locker room. Then, before the third quarter, LeBron echoed (those words).

"(The message was): We had 24 minutes to play for our livelihood."

Added James: "Juwan's words in our locker room is as big as anyone's."

Haslem finished with 16 points on 8-of-9 shooting. He has been huge in each of the Heat's past two wins. In Game 3, he scored 17 points, also on 8-of-9 shooting.

Ironically, Haslem missed the first shot he took Thursday -- and it was way off, hitting the side of the backboard. But he was perfect after that.

"I was just getting to my spot," Haslem said. "For 10 years, I've made my living on the baseline."

The Pacers were led by Paul George, who had 27 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. Roy Hibbert added 22 points but had just six rebounds.

"I think we came out flat," Hibbert said. "We didn't execute. Sometimes that sticks with some people. They get down on themselves."

Earlier in the third quarter, the game's intensity was obvious when Heat guard Mario Chalmers pushed David West. After West confronted Chalmers, Haslem came in to protect his point guard. All three players were hit with technical fouls, resulting in one Pacers free throw.

The Pacers went into halftime with a 44-40 lead.

George led all scorers with 15 first-half points, including 13 in the first quarter. Hibbert had 14 points at the break, including 10 in the opening quarter. George and Hibbert combined to score all of Indiana's first-quarter points.

Chris "Birdman" Andersen fired up Heat fans in the second quarter, delivering a strong forearm to Tyler Hansbrough with no provocation from the Pacers forward. Andersen was whistled for a "flagrant one" foul.

After Hansbrough made one of two free throws, he tried a post-up move, but Andersen came flying in from off the ball to block the shot, drawing a wild response from the fans.

The Pacers led 23-19 after the first quarter despite the fact that they lost starting shooting guard Lance Stephenson for the final 9:32 of the period after he was called for two quick fouls.

The Pacers also blew three first-quarter layups -- two by West and one by Hibbert.

Looking forward to Game 6, George said he is eager to see how his team responds.

"We have done well all year dealing with adversity," he said. "Game 6 will determine how much we have grown from last year."

NOTES: Andersen has made 18 shots in a row in the playoffs. ... James shot 5-for-7 in the post in Game 3 but just 1-for-6 in those situations in Game 4. ... Wade has gone 11 consecutive games without scoring at least 20 points, the longest stretch of his career. He had 10 points Thursday on 3-of-8 shooting... Entering Thursday, the Pacers had a plus-40 rebounding edge in the series. However, Indiana managed just a 33-32 advantage on the boards in Game 5. ... Hibbert has outrebounded Bosh 54-18 in the series. Hibbert's scoring average has increased from 11.9 points in the regular season to 22.6 in this series.

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