The Heat now face a stunning must-win scenario Thursday night. If they lose Game 5, they’ll return to Indy for Game 6 fighting for their playoff lives.
Over the next 48 hours, the Heat will try to figure out what went wrong in a game full of oddities.
Bosh crashed to the court clutching his right knee after a first-half collision. In the second half, he limped to the locker room after appearing to twist his right ankle on a foul call but returned a few minutes later trying to shake off the injury. Wade limped noticeably during the first half and wound up in foul trouble, too. Miami’s three All-Stars were a dismal 14 of 39 from the field.
Still, Miami nearly took command of the series.
“We had them right where we wanted them, but every time we would get a stop, especially in the fourth quarter, we didn’t come up with the rebound,” said Bosh. “It was there for us, but we didn’t capitalize.”
Nobody was more frustrated than James, who was called for a technical foul in the first quarter and four fouls over the final 12 minutes — the last an offensive foul. After walking from one end of the court to the Miami bench, James sat disbelievingly on a press table and spent the final 56 seconds mumbling to the officials.
Again he promised to make amends.
“It was a couple of fouls that I didn’t feel like were fouls, personal fouls on me, but that’s how the game goes sometimes,” James said.
Miami had its chances, but Indiana simply refused to back down.
When the Heat used a 9-0 run to take a 60-54 lead early in the third quarter, Indiana answered immediately with a 10-0 run to regain the lead. When James committed an offensive foul with 2 seconds left in the third, his first turnover since the end of Game 2, the Pacers got a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Stephenson to make it 77-70.
When the Heat rallied in the fourth, charging back from an 81-72 deficit to take an 86-83 lead, the Pacers answered again. George drew a foul on James and wound up tying the score on a three-point play with 5:38 to go.
Ray Allen broke the tie with a 3 from the left wing as the shot clock was winding down, but Indiana answered again. This time, West made 1 of 2 free throws, Stephenson knocked down a 19-footer, and Hibbert scored on a putback and then completed a three-point play to end the 7-0 run that gave Indiana a 94-89 lead with 90 seconds left.
Miami never got another chance to tie it.
“I just felt the guys showed a lot of fight,” West said. “We’ve got a group of guys on this team that are full of heart. A tough group, willing to step up to the challenge. We knew this was a make-or-break game for us.”
Notes: West finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds. … Indiana is now 3-1 against Miami at home this season and 7-1 at home in the playoffs. … Two days after shooting 54.5 percent against the Pacers, Miami was just 30 of 77. … Katie Stam, the 2009 Miss America from Indiana, sang the National Anthem.