Paul George scores 37 points as Indiana Pacers beat Miami Heat
The All Star went 'crazy' in the fourth quarter as deficit cut to 3-2 in Eastern finals
Paul George went into desperation mode to salvage the Pacers' season. It was barely good enough.
The 24-year-old All-Star scored 21 of his 37 points in the fourth quarter and inspired Indiana to fend off Miami's late challenge as the Pacers staved off play-off elimination with a 93-90 game five victory.
"My message to the whole team was the light needs to be on green for all of us," coach Frank Vogel said. "You need to go, you need to attack, you need to be aggressive. Paul took it and ran with it and took it to a crazy level."
The most crucial shooting performance of George's career helped the Pacers claw it back to 2-3 in the Eastern Conference finals postponing Miami's fourth straight coronation as conference champs. Game six is tomorrow (Hong Kong time) in Miami.
It took everything in George's repertoire to get it done. He was 12 of 19 from the field in the second half, finishing with six rebounds, six steals, five three-pointers and only three turnovers in 45 minutes.
But the Pacers also needed everything else to go right.
Four-time MVP LeBron James was limited to 241/2 minutes because of major foul trouble. He finished with a career play-off-low seven points, two rebounds and four assists. The Heat committed 17 turnovers, compared to just 13 for the usually turnover-prone Pacers, and Indiana had a 45-38 rebounding edge, too.
The difference was George, whose 21 fourth-quarter points were the most scored against Miami in any play-off quarter. The old record, 20, was set by Michael Jordan in May 1997.
"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 play-off career high, the 39 he had in game four against Washington in the previous series, and was just four points short of Reggie Miller's franchise record in an NBA play-off 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 one on the road before going on to win the next four games to close out the series. The Heat were in position to do it again even with James' limitations.
"We still had enough opportunities to come away with a win," coach Erik Spoelstra said. "We just couldn't get over the hump."
Hard falls and tough plays were a theme all night for a Pacers team who were been roundly criticised for their lack of effort in Monday night's loss. Lance Stephenson took it a step farther. At one point, he attempted to listen in on one of Miami's huddles. At another, he blew in James' ear.
"I'm just here to play basketball, man. All the extracurricular activities, I don't really get into," James said. "All the extra stuff, whatever Lance wants to do, I don't really care about that."