What happened: The Game 1 blues almost got Miami again.
The Heat, who suffered an unexpected loss to Chicago in the opener of their previous series, nearly met the same fate Wednesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. But they came back from three points down in overtime to defeat Indiana 103-102 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.
Forward LeBron James made a driving layup at the buzzer to give the Heat the win. That came after Pacers forward Paul George had made three free throws with 2.2 seconds left for a 102-101 lead after being fouled by Dwyane Wade on a 3-pointer.
The Heat had a physical series in their 4-1 win over Chicago. This one looks as if it will be even more rugged.
The Heat came back from a five-point deficit with 3:25 left in the third quarter and looked to have the game won. But George threw in a 32-foot 3-pointer with .7 second left in regulation to force overtime.
James led the Heat with a triple-double of 30 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. George led the Pacers with 27 points.
The Heat was down 58-53 after George made a pair of free throws with 3:25 left in the third quarter. But they fought their way back.
Miami players said they came out rusty in the 93-86 loss to Chicago after having seven days off. They had six off before Wednesday’s opener.
The turning point: There wasn’t one until the final buzzer.
Trailing 102-101 with 2.2 seconds left, James took an inbound pass from halfcourt while standing just beyond the free-throw line. He streaked to the basket and made a left-handed, game-winning layup.
It was the second buzzer-beater in James’ career to win a playoff game. The first was a 3-pointer at the buzzer to win Game 2 of the 2009 Eastern Conference finals against Orlando.
The difference maker: It was James doing what he does best and having an all-around game.
The Heat needed every rebound they could get Wednesday. That’s because Miami center Chris Bosh grabbed a meager two boards.
What it means: As if anybody didn’t already know it, this is going to be a tough, physical series. The Heat had problems with Indiana’s size during the regular season and that has continued to some extend.
The Pacers won two of the three regular-season meetings between the teams while out-rebounding the Heat by an average of 11.0 per game. The Pacers won the battle of the boards 43-38 Wednesday. But Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said his team can’t afford to be out-rebounded by a lot, and that wasn’t a large enough margin to cost the Heat the game.
What’s next: Game 2 of the series is at 8:30 p.m. Friday at AmericanAirlines Arena.