Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (24) reacts after game five against the Miami Heat of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. (Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports)
George's second-half explosion keeps Pacers alive
With his team facing elimination in the Eastern Conference finals Wednesday night, George scored 31 of his game-high 37 points in the second half, leading the Indiana Pacers to a 93-90 win over the Miami Heat at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
"Coach (Frank Vogel) told me, green light. Stay on green," George said about Vogel's halftime message to the team after missing his career playoff high by just two points. "I really came out inspired."
The Heat still lead the best-of-seven series three games to two. Game 6 will be played Friday in Miami. If Indiana wins Friday, the deciding seventh game would be played Sunday in Indianapolis.
Early in the fourth quarter, George stamped his highlight on the night. The 6-foot-9 forward stole an attempted pass by Miami forward LeBron James and sprinted alone to the other end of the court for a powerful dunk. Those were two of nine points scored by George in the first three minutes of the quarter.
George scored 21 points in the final quarter, the most points he scored in one quarter in his career.
It was the kind of performance that impressed even the Heat, who are used to seeing James play such a pivotal role in a playoff game.
"Paul George made some big shots for them tonight," Miami guard Dwyane Wade said.
Even so, the Heat had a chance to win the game in the final seconds and clinch their spot in a fourth consecutive NBA Finals. With Miami trailing 92-90, James moved the ball to Heat center Chris Bosh for an open 3-point shot in the corner. The shot hit the rim and bounced away.
"I saw C.B. in the corner, his sweet spot," James said.
Miami last lost a playoff series when it fell in the 2011 NBA Finals to the Dallas Mavericks.
"We can't feel like it can't be done," George said of Indiana's attempt to come back from a 3-1 deficit. "Every player in our locker room, every trainer, every coach, everybody in this organization have to feel like we can accomplish this. And we believe."
The Pacers know they will see a different game from James, who battled foul trouble all night and finished with seven points. He was on the bench with his second foul in the opening quarter and again midway through the third quarter with his third foul. He was whistled for his fourth foul in the opening minute of the third quarter.
"It's definitely something I'm not accustomed to," James said.
"Twenty-four minutes is not enough for me to make an imprint."
James missed seven of his first eight shots and finished 2-for-10 from the floor. He scored fewer than 22 points for the first time in the Heat's 14 playoff games this year.
"It's not going to be like that in Game 6," George said. "We're expecting that LeBron will be LeBron."
Forward David West added 19 points for Indiana, and guard Lance Stephenson had 12. Center Roy Hibbert contributed 10 points and a game-high 13 rebounds.
Bosh led the Heat with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Forward Rashard Lewis and Wade each scored 18.
While the game's plot centered around the scoring by George and the non-existence of James, Stephenson had his own form of entertainment, including purposely getting within earshot of the Miami bench during a timeout.
"I was just trying to figure out what (Miami coach Erik Spoelstra) was talking about," Stephenson said, joking after the game.
Before Game 4, Stephenson said James was talking trash during play.
"Lance is Lance," James said. "He's going to do whatever he can to help his team win."
George was dominant late in the game, especially in the first three minutes of the fourth quarter, when he scored nine points, not missing a shot. A 3-pointer by George with less than two minutes left gave the Pacers an 88-84 lead, and another 3-pointer with 46.7 seconds left put Indiana on top 91-87.
For nearly nine minutes of the second quarter, only reserve forward Luis Scola scored for Indiana. He hit three of five shots, outscoring the rest of the Pacers combined over the entire quarter. Outside of Scola, the Pacers missed eight of 10 shots.
Scola finished the game with six points.
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NOTES: Indiana G Lance Stephenson said criticizing Miami F LeBron James publicly for trashing talk before Game 4 was a mistake. Pacers coach Frank Vogel would admit only that the two talked about it. ... Miami F Chris Andersen missed his second consecutive game because of a bruised thigh. He scored 14 points, his 2014 postseason high, in the Heat's Game 2 victory at Indiana. ... Miami G Ray Allen, battling a bruised hip he sustained Game 4, did not participate in Wednesday morning's shootaround, but he entered the game in the first quarter when F LeBron James was called for his second foul less than nine minutes in. Allen finished with 15 points.