MIAMI — Rivalries are made in the playoffs. The Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers sure are developing a good one.
The Pacers defeated the Heat 97-93 on Friday night at AmericanAirlines Arena to tie the Eastern Conference finals at 1-1. It was as close and scintillating as the opener, which the Heat won 103-102 in overtime.
LeBron James, who scored the winning layup in Game 1, had a chance again to be the hero with Miami trailing 95-93. But James threw a bad pass that was deflected by Indiana’s David West and picked off by George Hill, who then put the game away by hitting two free throws with 8.3 seconds left.
James led the Heat with 36 points. Center Roy Hibbert, who was on the bench at the end of Game 1 when James hit the winner, led Indiana with 29.
The Heat fought back from a 13-point second-quarter deficit to lead by four midway through the fourth quarter. But the Pacers were the stronger team at the end.
The turning point: Trailing 88-84 midway through the fourth quarter, the Pacers closed the game with a 13-5 spurt.
With the scored tied 93-93, the Pacers took the lead for good on a pair of free throws by Hill with 48 seconds left. Hill then extended the lead to 97-93 on his two foul shots with 8.3 seconds remaining.
The difference maker: Hibbert, who was taken out for the final 2.2 seconds of overtime in Game 1 when James drove to the hoop for the winning bucket.
Hibbert had 19 of his points Friday in the first half. He also had 10 rebounds and guarded the rim much better than he had in Game 1.
What it means: It’s looking a lot like last year’s series between the teams. In an East semifinal, the Pacers stole Game 2 at Miami to tie that series 1-1.
The Pacers won Game 3 at home. But they dropped the final three games to lose the series 4-2.
But Games 3 and 4 will be in Indianapolis, where the Heat were 0-2 during the regular season, losing by an average margin of 11.5 points.
What’s next: Game 3 is at 8:30 p.m. Sunday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.