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Pacers even series thanks to late surge

The SportsXchange

INDIANAPOLIS -- Don't print those Spurs-Heat programs for the NBA Finals just yet.

The Indiana Pacers aren't ready to concede the Eastern Conference title to Miami.

Staging an impressive rally in the final five minutes and the beneficiary of several key calls down the stretch, the Pacers beat the Heat 99-92 Tuesday to tie the Eastern Conference finals at two games apiece.

Game 5 is Thursday in Miami.

The Western Conference champion San Antonio Spurs await the East champ in the NBA Finals, which begin June 6.

"Just resiliency," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. "We've shown a great deal of resolve all year. This is the first chance we've faced adversity this playoff season, and our guys rose to the challenge to start the game, and then when Miami came and took the lead, they rose to the challenge again."

The Pacers scored eight consecutive points, wiping out a three-point deficit, to take a 94-89 lead with 1:30 to play. The run concluded with back-to-back Roy Hibbert layups, the second leading to a three-point play.

LeBron James hit a 3-pointer to pull the Heat within two, but Lance Stephenson responded with a short jumper that pushed Indiana's advantage to 96-92.

With 56 seconds to go, James was whistled for an illegal screen, his sixth foul, ending his night. He finished with 24 points, six rebounds and five assists.

"You would like to be out there on the floor, especially me," James said. "Be there for my teammates especially in the closing minutes when we have a chance to win. Wasn't able to do that."

Dwyane Wade was called for traveling with 26 seconds to go, and the Pacers made three of four free throws in the closing moments to seal the win.

"Guys did a good job of fighting," Pacers power forward David West said. "We made a couple of adjustments that worked, and guys just did a tremendous job of staying the course even when (the Heat) made some tough shots."

Hibbert led the Pacers with 23 points and added 12 rebounds. Stephenson added 20 points, and George Hill had 19.

Mario Chalmers scored 20 points for Miami, and Wade had 16.

The Pacers held the Heat to 39 percent shooting. Indiana shot 50 percent from the floor.

"We contained the ball a lot more with our ... pick-and-rolls," Hibbert said. "We took care of some stuff so I don't have to rotate as much. I have to give kudos to our guards because they did a real good job of keeping their men in front of them."

It was only a matter of time before the Heat would take more than a one-point lead in the game. That time came early in the third quarter.

The Heat opened the second half by scoring 13 of the first 19 points to take a 60-54 lead.

What made the run even more depressing for the Pacers is that it wasn't James, Wade or Chris Bosh doing most of the damage. Chalmers had six of the 13 points.

Silence fell upon the Bankers Life Fieldhouse crowd.

The Pacers' season -- winning Game 5 in Miami would be a tough task -- was slipping away.

Vogel called a timeout to try to keep his squad from completely falling apart.

The Pacers responded and went on a 7-0 run to take a 61-60 lead on a West jump shot with 5:36 left in the third quarter.

The Pacers didn't stop there.

Stephenson made a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Pacers a 77-70 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

"He had that big bucket down the stretch," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "You can say that the momentum-changing 3 at the end of the third (was a key). Really, that was irrelevant by the time we got down to the last stretch of the fourth."

The Pacers were up nine in the fourth quarter when they got called for a questionable shot-clock violation that shifted momentum again.

The Heat went on a run that was capped off by a Wade three-point play to take an 86-83 lead midway through the quarter.

"It was, like this whole series has been, just great play after great play after great play," Vogel said. "We were able to make a few more winning plays."

NOTES: The Pacers had sizable advantages in rebounds, 49-30, and points in the paint, 50-32. ... Indiana committed 12 turnovers to Miami's six. ... Vogel has made it no secret that he's against flopping, something the Heat have a reputation from doing. James doesn't have anything against it. "You're just trying to get the advantage," James said. "Any way you can get the advantage over an opponent to help your team win, then so be it." ... Heat big man Chris "Birdman" Andersen is 13-for-13 from the field in the series. "As soon as he misses one shot, this whole series is going to change," Vogel joked. Andersen didn't attempt a shot Tuesday, going scoreless over 19 minutes.
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