James scores 30, Heat take Game 5, 90-79

MIAMI (AP) There will be no
win-or-else Game 6 in the Eastern Conference finals for the Miami Heat
this season. LeBron James saw to that, and now the reigning champions
are one victory from a third straight trip to the NBA Finals.

James finished with 30 points, eight
rebounds and six assists, Udonis Haslem made his last eight shots on the
way to a 16-point night, and the Heat used a dominant third quarter to
turn things around and beat the Indiana Pacers 90-79 in Game 5 on
Thursday.

Mario Chalmers scored 12 points and
Dwyane Wade added 10 for the Heat, who lead the series 3-2 and will look
to close it out at Indiana on Saturday night. The Heat ousted the
Pacers in six games in a second-round matchup last season.

Paul George had 27 points and 11
rebounds for the Pacers, who got 22 points from Roy Hibbert and 17 from
David West. The Pacers led by as many as seven at one point, but had no
answer for the Heat in the third, getting outscored 30-13 in the period,
including 21-6 in the final 7 minutes.

James and Haslem combined for 26
points in the third, and were simply too much. Haslem’s first shot of
the night hit the side of the backboard. He didn’t miss again, going 8
for 8 and sealing it with a jumper with 1:51 left – 12 seconds before
drawing an offensive foul against Lance Stephenson, the sixth for the
Pacers’ guard, who finished with just four points.

A year ago, the Heat lost Game 5 of
the East finals to Boston, and needed a 45-point game from James in Game
6 just to extend their season.

Not this time.

The Finals – and a date with San Antonio – is now one win away.

As if this one needed any more buildup, there was plenty of news long before tipoff.

The NBA announced in the morning that
it fined James, West and Lance Stephenson $5,000 apiece for flopping in
Game 4, along with upgrading a foul that West committed against Wade in
the fourth quarter of that game to a flagrant-1. Then Hibbert and West,
speaking after Indiana’s morning practice, said they have to protect
their knees when Shane Battier is in the game for Miami, though neither
flatly accused the Heat forward of dirty play.

And all that happened more than eight hours prior to game time.

Things didn’t exactly calm down once the ball went into the air.

Indiana was blown out in Game 5 of a
tied-up series at Miami last season, never holding the lead and losing
by 32 points. This one took a much different tone from the outset, with
the Pacers running out to a 15-9 lead that could have been worse for
Miami given that West and Hibbert combined to miss three easy layups in
the opening minutes.

George and Hibbert combined for all
of Indiana’s 23 points in the first quarter. Indiana’s lead was four
after the first quarter, and when the second began, the reminders that
these teams simply do not like each other started coming fast and
furious.

Chris Andersen and Tyler Hansbrough
needed to be separated early in the second, and both got technicals
after Andersen appeared to hit Hansbrough twice, first with a shoulder
and then with a two-hand shove. Andersen also picked up a flagrant-1 for
his efforts, things cooled off a bit for the rest of the half, and
Indiana went into the break up 44-40.

The Pacers then scored the first basket of the third.

After that, all Heat. Or more
specifically, all James and Haslem, who put together a burst that the
defending champions desperately needed.

“It’s the playoffs,” Wade said.
“Shane Battier said this is when you feel alive, when your back’s
against the wall. … You’ve got to go out there and play. This is what
we prepared for all season.”

If nothing else, that season won’t end this week, not after what the Heat did in the third quarter.

Haslem got past Hibbert easily and
into the lane for a dunk that put Miami up 47-46, the first Heat lead
since 4-2. The Pacers were back on top by a point with 6:58 left in the
third when fighting words reappeared, on a play where George Hill was
called for an offensive foul after getting caught pushing off on a
drive. West angrily approached Chalmers after the play and both of those
players, along with Haslem, got technicals when it was all said and
done.

It clearly fired up Miami.

James and Haslem combined to score 18
of their team’s 21 points in the final 6:04 of the third – and
everything came on jump shots, including a 3-pointer from Chalmers,
three jumpers averaging 20 feet from Haslem, and five more from James,
including a 3-pointer with 16 seconds left in the quarter that put Miami
up 70-56 and had him yelling at no one in particular as the arena
roared.

Indiana had been up six in the third –
and a 20-point swing later, suddenly found itself down 14. James
accounted for 25 points (scoring 16 and setting up nine more with four
assists) in the period, 12 more than the Pacers managed combined.

Just like that, the game – and perhaps the series – changed.

NOTES: The last time Haslem had a
10-point third quarter was also against Indiana – but in March 2009. …
David Beckham was courtside near the Heat bench, Floyd Mayweather Jr.
was courtside near the Pacers’ bench. … Hansbrough left in the fourth
quarter with a sprained right ankle after falling over Battier, who was
down on the court after going for a rebound. … Both teams seemed a tad
nervous in the opening moments. Wade had two airballs in the first
quarter, Haslem had a jumper bounce off the top of the backboard, and
Hill tossed an alley-oop that missed everybody and bounced off the
backboard like a fastball.