Heat rout Pacers to take 2-1 series lead

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — LeBron James
scored 22 points and the Miami Heat rediscovered their offensive punch,
routing the Indiana Pacers 114-96 on Sunday night to take a 2-1 lead in
the Eastern Conference finals.

James got plenty of help as the Heat
reclaimed the home-court advantage they lost two nights earlier. Dwyane
Wade had 18 points, and Udonis Haslem added 17.

David West led Indiana with 21 points,
and Roy Hibbert had 20 points and 17 rebounds. The Pacers lost for the
first time at home in the playoffs this season, dropping to 6-1.

Game 4 is Tuesday night in Indianapolis.

It was vastly different from the first two games when the Heat couldn’t pull away.

Miami used an 8-2 run to open up a
10-point lead in the second quarter led 70-56 at halftime – Miami’s
biggest lead in the series.

Indiana didn’t get closer than seven the rest of the way.

It was a rare letdown from one of the NBA’s top defensive teams.

Miami shot 54.5 percent from the
field, was 24 of 28 from the free-throw line, matched its
highest-scoring quarter of the playoffs this season (34) in the first,
broke the franchise’s postseason scoring record for a half with 70
points and tied a franchise playoff record with only one first-half
turnover.

The combination was the perfect
remedy for Miami, which needed James’ buzzer-beating layup to win Game 1
in overtime and turned the ball over twice in the closing seconds of
Game 2, a 97-93 loss. The Heat hadn’t led by more than five in either of
those two home games.

On Sunday, Miami got major contributions from a handful of players and left nothing to chance.

It traded baskets through the first
quarter, building a 34-30 lead and getting the Pacers out of their
grind-it-out style, then opened up the second quarter on an 8-2 run to
make it 42-32. Indiana couldn’t get closer than seven the rest of the
half and when James knocked down a 15-foot jumper with 1.3 seconds left,
the Heat had the record.

Indiana was a different team to start
the second half, getting back-to-back 3-pointers and a three-point play
from George Hill. Lance Stephenson followed that with 1 of 2 free
throws to cut it to 74-67.

But Miami countered with a 9-4 run, extended the lead to 91-76 after three and made it 99-78 early in the fourth.

Indiana closed to 101-87 midway
through the fourth but couldn’t any closer. It was only the third time
this season the Pacers lost at home by double digits. Indiana fell 97-75
to Oklahoma City in April and 105-95 in the regular-season finale to
Philadelphia when coach Frank Vogel rested four of five starters.

Notes: Miami’s best scoring half
before Sunday was a 68-point effort against Chicago on April 24, 2006.
… Indiana handed out blue and white T-shirts to create a checkered
flag effect in the stands. … Miami’s Chris Andersen has made 16
consecutive shots in the playoffs. … Indiana basketball coach Tom
Crean, former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and San Francisco
49ers coach Jim Harbaugh attended the game. … The victory was Miami’s
first at Indiana this season. The Heat lost both regular-season games in
Indy.