As both Our Fearless Leader and Yahoo! Sports NBA columnist Adrian Wojnarowski wrote Thursday night, LeBron James was magnificent for the Miami Heat in Game 5, leading the charge to a 90-79 win that gives the Heat a 3-2 lead over the Indiana Pacers and a chance to close out the Eastern Conference finals at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Saturday night.
Nowhere was James' all-court brilliance more evident than in the third quarter, which saw the MVP take over the game on both ends of the floor:
Time and again, James called his own number against the likes of Paul George, Lance Stephenson and George Hill. When his path was impeded, he found teammates, most notably longtime Heat totem Udonis Haslem. When Indy tried to answer back, James and his teammates dug in defensively, trapping the Pacers' guards hard — the Pacers really missed Hill, who sat for nearly half the quarter with foul trouble — and denying easy entry to bread-and-butter big men Roy Hibbert and David West.
After a first half in which the Pacers seemed to dictate the terms of engagement and the Heat seemed either unwilling or unable to match Indiana's intensity, Miami was suddenly everywhere, expanding to fill every opening and burning up Indy's oxygen ... and in the third quarter of Game 5, to perhaps the largest extent since he flew south, LeBron James was the Miami Heat.
What was the result of the cranked-up pressure on both ends? Just a total reversal of the story of the game.
The Heat scored 30 points in the third quarter. James directly created 25 of them — scoring 16 of his own on 7 for 10 shooting and assisting on nine more with four dimes (three to Haslem, whose baseline jumper was huge in the third, and one on a 3-pointer by Mario Chalmers). He was surgical operating out of the high post, especially with Haslem making Hibbert pay for shading toward the lane, both with midrange jumpers and once, surprisingly and very loudly, off the dribble.
For Indiana, on the other hand? Thirteen points on 3 for 14 shooting, just one assist against five turnovers that led to nine Miami points, just two points in the paint and zero second-chance points (nullifying one of the Pacers' major advantages in this series). A four-point halftime lead turned into a 13-point deficit entering the fourth quarter, and a chance to take another game on the road turned into a win-or-go-home Game 6 on Saturday ... all, or at least largely, because of No. 6 in the home whites.