Pacers' big victory has the Heat dissipating

By Tim Withers

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, May 17 2012 10:30 p.m. MDT

Miami Heat's LeBron James, center, goes to the basket against Indiana Pacers' George Hill (3) and Paul George, right, during the first half of Game 3 of their NBA basketball Eastern Conference semifinal playoff series, Thursday, May 17, 2012, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS — LeBron James grabbed a seat on Miami's bench, lowered his head and stared down at the floor.

Way down.

The Heat are in a hole.

Roy Hibbert had 19 points and 18 rebounds, George Hill scored 20 and Danny Granger 17 as the Pacers, showing more balance, toughness and togetherness than favored Miami, throttled the malfunctioning Heat 94-75 on Thursday night in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Overlooked during the regular season and given little chance to upset the reigning East champions, the Pacers took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.

Game 4 is Sunday at raucous Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

James scored 22 — 16 in the first half before wearing down — and Mario Chalmers added 25 for Miami. However, Dwyane Wade, banged up and possibly slowed by a more serious injury, scored only 5 on 2-of-13 shooting for the Heat, already missing forward Chris Bosh because of a strained abdominal muscle and not expected to return for this series.

"It's obvious he wasn't himself." James said of Wade. "Does he want to play better? Of course. He's one of the best players in the world."

Wade didn't play like one and he also had an angry exchange during a timeout in the third quarter with coach Erik Spoelstra, who dismissed it as a heat-of-battle incident.

"That happens," Spoelstra said. "Anybody that has been part of a team or has been a coach or been a player, you have no idea how often things like that happen. That was during a very emotional part of the game. We were getting our butt kicked. Those exchanges happen all the time during the course of an NBA season.

"There's going to be a lot of times where guys say something, you don't like it. You get over it and you move on. We're all connected. Dwyane and I have been together for a long time, a long time. We've been through basically everything. A lot of different roles, a lot of different teams. That really is nothing. That is the least of our concern. That type of fire, shoot, that's good. That's the least of our concerns. Our concern is getting for Sunday."

Wade wouldn't discuss his dispute with Spoelstra.

Indiana outscored Miami 51-32 in the second half, when the Pacers could do no wrong.

They made big shots, challenged everything the Heat tossed in the air and didn't back down from a Miami team that appeared poised to make an easy run to the NBA finals after top-seeded Chicago lost Derrick Rose and was eliminated in the first round.

The Pacers, though, have other plans.

In the second half, Indiana forward David West flung James to the floor in the lane, and Granger later got in the superstar's face after a foul on a breakaway. After winning Game 2 in South Florida by three points, the Pacers wanted to show that win was no fluke and that they're for real.

Believe it.

They're two wins from tilting the balance of power in the East.

"We're certainly happy with the win," said Pacers coach Frank Vogel. "But we've got a lot of work to do."

Vogel's pregame message to his team: "Keep your edge, and enhance your edge."

Enhance, they did.

Hibbert controlled the glass, roaming the lane on both ends and finishing with five blocks.

"My primary focus is defense, defense, defense," he said. "I embrace that role and let the offense come to me. Them being one and done, that's what we talked about in the huddle," he said. "One shot and they're done."

Two more losses and the Heat are done.

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