December 19, 2014

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NBA playoffs: LeBron, Bosh lead Heat to Game 4 win

Miami Heat forward LeBron James drives the ball as Indiana Pacers forward Paul George defends Monday in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Miami Heat forward LeBron James drives the ball as Indiana Pacers forward Paul George defends Monday in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

MIAMI — LeBron James had 32 points and 10 rebounds, Chris Bosh added 25 points and the Miami Heat moved one win away from a return trip to the NBA Finals with a 102-90 win over the Indiana Pacers on Monday night.

Dwyane Wade scored 15 points for the Heat, who have won three of the first four games in the Eastern Conference finals. They can win the East for a fourth straight season with a win at Indiana on Wednesday night.

Miami led wire-to-wire, opening up as much as a 23-point lead in the final quarter.

Paul George scored 23 points and David West added 20 points and 12 rebounds for the Pacers, who got 15 points from George Hill. But Lance Stephenson was held to nine and Roy Hibbert was scoreless in 22 minutes for Indiana.

The Pacers won two elimination games in the first round against Atlanta, and need to win three more if their yearlong plan of topping Miami as kings of the East is going to become reality.

The odds are obviously stacked against them. When holding a 3-1 lead, Miami is 8-0 in Game 5s over the past four postseasons.

Much as he did Sunday, Indiana coach Frank Vogel used the big brother-little brother analogy with his team, trying any way to urge the Pacers to break through against the team that has ended their season in each of the past two years.

“He’s got to make a decision at some point in his life, that no matter what, we’re not going to lose this fight anymore,” Vogel said, likening the Pacers to the little brother in that scenario. “We’re at that point.”

The fight isn’t over.

But it was awfully one-sided for long stretches of Game 4.

“You can never get too high, you can never get too low in the postseason,” James said. “You’ve got to stay even-keeled. You got to try to get better every single day, every single game improve.

“When you do that and you go out and play the type of game that you’re capable of playing, you can be satisfied with the results and that’s what we’ve built over the years.”

Miami outscored Indiana 31-20 in the third quarter and increased the lead to 23 in the fourth before the Pacers used a 15-3 run to make things rather interesting. Stephenson had a layup with 3:20 left that would have gotten Indiana within nine — but it was waved off after he was called for fouling Wade on his way to the basket.

Stephenson scored with 1:31 left to make it 99-90, but James snuffed out any comeback hopes right there. His three-point play nine seconds later pushed the lead back to 12, and the Heat were moments away from a 3-1 lead.

Miami was without Chris Andersen, inactive because of a bruised left thigh. The Heat also tweaked their starting lineup, with Rashard Lewis in and Udonis Haslem out.

“We have high-quality NBA professionals on our team that can sit all year and when their number is called they can come in and produce,” James said.

Bosh scored the game’s first eight points, making a pair of 3-pointers and ending a series-long funk. He had scored exactly nine points in each of the first three games of these East finals and was held under 10 points in each of his last seven playoff games against Indiana.

But he came out flying, and probably not coincidentally, the Heat finally had a good start.

“I felt that was going to happen today,” James said. “I told him he (was) going to have a great game, and we got off to a fast start because of him.”

They won the first quarter for the first time in the series, going up 27-19 and helped in part by a late 3-pointer from Shane Battier — with replays showing Vogel moved down the sideline toward the Heat forward as he shot from near the Indiana bench.

Nothing was to Indiana’s liking. Hibbert and Stephenson combined for zero points and six fouls in the half. The Heat didn’t have a turnover until the second quarter. Miami shot 10 more free throws in the half. Bosh and James combined for 32 points.

And despite it all, the Pacers were down only 49-44 at halftime.

After getting hand-checked eight times by Hill on a play late in the half, James went down the lane for a reverse dunk while getting fouled to put Miami up by 10.

But the Pacers answered, a 3-pointer by George just before the break getting them within five and sealing a half that could have been much worse.

If there was any doubt, Miami erased it quickly after halftime. James scored five points in a 7-0 spurt to open the second half, and the Heat were on their way.

NOTES

  • It was the 74th playoff game where James had at least 25 points, five rebounds and five assists, passing Michael Jordan for the most in NBA history.
  • George passed Reggie Miller for the highest scoring single-season (including playoffs) by a player in Pacers history. Miller had 2,078 in 1989-90; George entered Game 4 with 2,077 points.
  • Wednesday will be Indiana’s 100th game of the season. Only two other Pacers teams have logged that many; they played 105 in 1999-2000 and 100 last season.

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