James' layup at OT buzzer lifts Heat in opener

Walter Villa, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

MIAMI -- In a game that is already being regarded as an instant classic, Miami Heat star LeBron James traded clutch baskets with emerging Indiana Pacers standout Paul George.
In the end, James, who had a triple-double with 30 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, made one more play than George.
James' layup at the buzzer -- he beat George on the play -- gave the Heat a 103-102 overtime victory over the Pacers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals Wednesday.
The winning play started with 2.2 seconds left and the Pacers clinging to a 102-101 lead. James caught an inbounds pass at the top of the key, took one dribble and hit the driving shot to sink the Pacers.
Game 2 is Friday at AmericanAirlines Arena.
James said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra drew up two plays and asked his star which one felt more comfortable.
"Shane (Battier) made a great pass," James said of the inbounds play. "I peaked over my shoulder and saw George was a bit out of place. He was leaning, and I just took off. I knew I had plenty of time to get to the rim."
George said he "slipped up" on the play.
"I have to make LeBron shoot a jumper at that point," he said. "I pressured him, but I was up too close."
Moments before James' game-winner, it appeared George would be the hero.
George made three free throws with 2.2 seconds left in overtime after being hit by Dwyane Wade, who fouled out on the play.
"I got nicked on the arm," George said. "I was glad the ref saw it."
George scored 18 of his team-high 27 points in the fourth quarter and overtime.
Included in that total was the play he made with 0.7 seconds left in regulation. George caught the Heat switching on a screen and made a desperation 25-footer over James to tie the score.
"I felt comfortable when David West handed me the ball," George said of his teammate, who had 26 points in a strong performance. "I was thankful the ball went in."
With 42 seconds left in regulation, the Heat seemed to have the game locked up when Wade broke an 89-89 tie with a lefty layup over Roy Hibbert.
The Pacers' next possession ended with a turnover on a George pass into the Indiana bench with 20 seconds left.
Indiana fouled the normally reliable Ray Allen -- an 89.4 percent career foul shooter -- who gave the Pacers hope by missing the first of two free throws.
George redeemed himself with his long 3 from the left wing.
Allen then missed a corner 3-pointer at the buzzer to send the game to overtime.
The Pacers led 42-37 at halftime, holding the Heat to their lowest first-half offensive output of the 2013 playoffs. The Heat had just two fast-break points, turned the ball over 13 times and were outrebounded 19-12.
Offensively, the key for the Pacers was the 6-foot-9, 240-pound West, who was a load in the paint. He made eight of 11 first-half shots and had a game-high 18 points after two quarters.
Hibbert finished the game with 19 points and nine rebounds. However, in a controversial decision, Pacers coach Frank Vogel took him out of the game on the Heat's two final overtime possessions.
George said he regrets the fact that Hibbert was not in the game for those two plays, each of which ended with a James layup.
"I think we all would (have liked Hibbert in there)," George said. "He does an amazing job protecting the rim. I'm 100 percent sure he would have been there (had he been in the game)."
Vogel didn't seem to disagree but said there were extenuating circumstances.
"That is the dilemma they present when they have (Chris) Bosh at the 5 and their ability to space the floor," Vogel said. "We tried to switch on everything and force a contested jump shot, but we pushed up too much, and LeBron beat us off the bounce."
Vogel said that had he opted to keep Hibbert in the game, a Bosh jumper likely would have become a first or second option, the theory being that Hibbert can't guard him away from the hoop. Bosh wound up with 17 points.
"The way it worked out, we would have rather had Roy in the game," Vogel said. "But if Bosh makes a jumper, we are all talking about that."
Vogel also said he will re-evaluate his plan for Game 2.
"I think," he said, "we'll probably have Roy in the game the next time."
NOTES: Heat starting PG Mario Chalmers (bruised shoulder) left the game in the third quarter and did not return. ... The Heat shot 16-for-25 (64 percent) from the free-throw line. ... Miami got a boost from reserve F Chris Andersen, who scored 16 points in 18 minutes. He was 7-for-7 from the floor and 2-for-2 from the foul line. ... Wade, who scored 19 points, was wearing a bulkier brace than usual on his right knee, but he also seemed to have more spring in his vertical leap and lateral movement. ... James picked up two first-quarter fouls for just the third time all season. The last time it happened was in December.

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