Heat Check: Chris Bosh steps up for Miami in Game 4
MIAMI — When Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra drew up the team’s first play for center Chris Bosh, it set the tone for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals.
Bosh, who recorded just nine points in each of the previous three games of the series, opened with eight straight and knocked down seven of his first eight shots.
The Heat moved one step closer to their fourth straight NBA Finals with a 102-90 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Monday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.
"I just wanted to get off to a good start," said Bosh, who finished with 25 points and six rebounds. "I wanted to be aggressive tonight, and I wanted to play good basketball. Sometimes it’s always difficult in my situation to kind of do that, but tonight was a good night."
LeBron James recorded a double-double with a game-high 32 points and 10 rebounds in a game the Heat never trailed. Dwyane Wade added 15.
Four Pacers scored in double digits, led by guard Paul George’s 23 points. David West contributed 20.
In the momentum-turning third quarter, things began unraveling for the Pacers as a five-point deficit ballooned to 19.
No sequence better exemplified the frustration than when West missed on a jumper and coach Frank Vogel was hit with a technical foul. Ray Allen made the free throw and James responded by sinking a fadeaway. Following a missed shot by center Roy Hibbert, James jumped on a fast break for a highlight-reel dunk.
"We did a good job of getting in the paint, trying to make the defense collapse, and we were able to benefit from that," Wade said. "All we care about is winning the ballgame, and we were able to do that."
Miami saw its 23-point lead cut to nine on Lance Stephenson’s layup with 1:31 left before James executed a three-point play. West got called for an offensive foul on the ensuing possession to secure the win.
During the first half, the Heat allowed the Pacers to hang around. Allen worked the post for a bucket to hand Miami a 40-29 lead with 6:16 remaining in the half — its largest to that point — before Indiana responded with six straight points.
It seemed the Heat would take momentum into the half when James put down a reverse dunk to make it 48-39, but George knocked down a 3-pointer with 2.9 seconds to go, sending the game into the break with a 49-44 score.
Hibbert was held scoreless, and Stephenson didn’t collect his first of nine points until 4:43 to go in the third on a free throw.
"I was just trying to play ball," Stephenson said. "I guess he stepped up and got the win. I can take the heat."
THE TURNING POINT
Up by five heading into the third, Miami opened the quarter with seven straight points and led by double digits until 1:31 remaining in the game. Rashard Lewis, who earned his first postseason start since May 28, 2010, in injured Chris Andersen’s place, caused two turnovers to kick off that stretch.
"I thought tonight we came out aggressive on the defensive end and moved the ball on the offensive end," said Lewis, who didn’t score a point but had three rebounds and an assist. "Got some fastbreak points and built a lead, built a cushion before they went on their run."
THE DIFFERENCE MAKER
It was Bosh’s turn to carry the Heat during the early part of Monday’s game. Bosh hit four field goals and scored 10 points in the first, which topped his previous highs over the first three games of the series. It was Bosh’s highest scoring output in the postseason since May 22, 2011, against the Chicago Bulls.
"The one cool thing about it was his teammates were real aggressive to try to get him going," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "That’s nice to see, when your brothers are wanting you to be aggressive and look for opportunities. You could see it.
"Even though we ran maybe a couple of actions, the rest of it was those four other guys trying to create an action for him to get some air space. But he was engaged and active on both ends of the court, and he can impact it."
STAT OF THE GAME
Two key stats stand out: Miami committed seven turnovers that led to six points compared with Indiana’s 14 (20 points). In the previous three contests, they averaged 12.3. The Heat also attacked the basket, going 30-of-34 from the line. The Pacers went just 11-of-17.
"We talk about it," Allen said of limiting turnovers. "We talk about all the possessions that lead to a play. Making careless passes (is) something we talked about from last game."
Game 5 will be 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
"We don’t want to come back with a Game 6," said James, whose Heat are 13-3 in closeout games since the 2011 postseason. "We love our fans, obviously. We love being in Miami, but we want to try to close it out. But we’re going to have to work for it. It’s not going to be easy, not against this team. It’s the No. 1 team in the Eastern Conference, and they’re there for a reason. So we look forward to the challenge."