MIAMI — LeBron James was promised some rest. It never came.
The MVP didn't care, not after he and the Miami Heat struck the first blow against the Indiana Pacers.
James accepted his third MVP trophy from Commissioner David Stern before the game, then scored 26 of his game-high 32 points while playing every second of the second half — adding a season-high 15 rebounds as well — as the Heat survived some rough stretches to beat the Pacers 95-86 on Sunday in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series.
"I just looked at him straight in the eyes and said, 'You can flat-out not get tired, period,'" Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "And he made MVP plays on both ends of the court."
Dwyane Wade scored 29 points for the Heat, who won the game but lost Chris Bosh for the second half and possibly longer. Bosh scored 13 points before leaving late in the first half with a lower abdominal strain, with the team saying he was being scheduled for an MRI exam to determine the severity.
"Hopefully (Monday) we get good news," Wade said. "Our brother is going to go to see if he can get back out there and play with us. If not, then we've got to have someone step up very big. You can't fill Chris Bosh's shoes, but you can have a few guys step up. So we'll see."
David West and Roy Hibbert each scored 17 points and combined for 23 rebounds for the Pacers, who got 10 points each from Darren Collison and George Hill. Indiana controlled long stretches of the first half and didn't trail by more than two points at any time until the fourth quarter, when it was outscored 25-16.
Indiana shot 50 percent in the first half, 30 percent in the second.
"We started to get defensive stops," James said. "We started getting things rolling."
"We're not just here to play. We're here to win," Hibbert said. "We need to win Game 2 and come back strong."
Playing one star down, James and Wade raised their games accordingly after halftime. They combined for 42 points in the third and fourth quarters, four more than the entire Indiana roster. The Pacers scored 16 in the fourth, and James had that many alone.
"We definitely let this one get away," Indiana's Paul George said. "It seemed like we weren't supposed to win this one. Everybody in this room knew we had this game."
Everything was undecided until the final moments. Hill made a 3-pointer with 4:51 left, getting Indiana within 86-85. But the Pacers missed their final nine shots of the game, James had a dunk in transition to make it 90-85 with 4:10 left, and his jumper with 31.8 seconds remaining wrapped up the Heat win.Comment on this story
"It's a battle and we know, regardless of being at home, being away, who we're playing, what round, it's tough to win in the playoffs and you have to fight for every single possession," Spoelstra said. "And that's what it was."
From his seat a few rows above the court, it was like Stern knew what was coming long before it happened.
Stern was on hand to present James with his MVP trophy in a pregame ceremony. Later, in a televised in-game interview, Stern told ABC that James is just "warming up" with three MVPs, a total that only seven other players have reached.