Plagued by fouls and pestered by the Lance Stephenson, James never got into rhythm as the Indiana Pacers staved off elimination with a 93-90 victory on Wednesday night, holding on after Chris Bosh’s 3-pointer with 4.9 seconds was off the mark.
“It’s tough for me because I’m not able to make plays and help our team win,” James said. “I made a couple in the fourth, but 24 minutes is not enough time for me to make an imprint on the game.”
James finished with seven points, two rebounds, four assists and three turnovers. It was the first time he was limited to single digits since he scored eight in the 2011 NBA Finals against Dallas and only the 10th time in his career.
Bosh had 20 points and 10 rebounds. Dwyane Wade and Rashard Lewis each finished with 18 points and the Heat were 15 of 31 from beyond the arc - and it still wasn’t enough.
“Offensively, we couldn’t get in a rhythm, but I thought our defense was great,” Wade said. “I thought we gave ourselves a chance because of our defense. Even when they took an 11-point lead, we still had an opportunity. On the road, that’s all you can ask for even without LeBron playing and putting his imprint on the game.”
The 24-year-old All-Star scored 21 of his 37 points in the fourth quarter. It took everything in George’s repertoire to get it done. He was 12 of 19 from the field in the second half, finished with six rebounds, six steals, five 3-pointers and only three turnovers in 45 minutes.
But the Pacers still needed everything else to go right.
In addition to losing James, the Heat committed 17 turnovers compared to just 13 for the usually turnover-prone Pacers, Indiana had a 45-38 rebounding edge and George simply couldn’t be stopped in the second half.
“I just felt it. I felt in rhythm. I had to be aggressive,” George said. “I tried to come out and be aggressive to start this game off and I was getting looks. I got hot.”
George fell just short of his playoff career high, the 39 he had in Game 4 against Washington in the previous series, and was just four points short of Reggie Miller’s franchise record in an NBA playoff game.
For Miami, it was a rare stumble in an elimination game in the Big Three era. Three other times, the Heat had lost Game 1 on the road and all three times they won the next four games to close out the series. The Heat were in position to do it again Wednesday even with James‘ limitations.