MIAMI — Miami took a big step forward. Indiana lost two forwards.
Suddenly, the road back to the Eastern Conference finals no longer looks daunting for the Heat.
LeBron James scored 30 points, Dwyane Wade added 28, and the Heat moved a win away from the NBA's final four with a 115-83 victory over the hurting Pacers on Tuesday night.
The Heat lead the best-of-seven East semifinals 3-2, with Game 6 in Indiana on Thursday night.
"This is our challenge right now, to leave it behind us," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "A lot of good things tonight, but we have to focus on the next one."
James added 10 rebounds and eight assists. Shane Battier scored 13 points, Mario Chalmers had eight points and 11 rebounds, and Udonis Haslem finished with 10 points for Miami, which never trailed, held a 22-2 edge in fast-break points and shot a franchise playoff-record 61 percent — best of any team in the playoffs this season.
Paul George scored 11 points for Indiana, with starting forwards Danny Granger and David West adding 10 points apiece. Granger left with a sprained left ankle in the third quarter, and West left with what the Pacers called a left knee sprain at the end of that period. X-rays on Granger were negative, and he's listed as day-to-day.
It was an 11-point game when Granger departed early in the third quarter, and the Heat outscored the Pacers by 21 the rest of the way.
"We learned early in this series, you don't get two wins for a blowout," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said.
A series marked by ugly moments had more, with two flagrant fouls in the second quarter and another with 19.4 seconds remaining when Miami reserve center Dexter Pittman went across the lane to send a forearm into the chin area of Indiana's Lance Stephenson — who was caught on camera making a choke sign toward James during the Pacers' Game 3 win, drawing the ire of the Miami locker room.
"Game 6 is going to be physical," Wade said. "We've got to understand that this team has a lot of pride. Their crowd is going to be ready. They're going to come out with a lot of energy. We've got to withstand that first hit and still be standing. We're ready for it."Comment on this story
Miami, which had gotten into quick deficits in each of the first four games, was the team that started hot in Game 5, running out to a 19-8 lead on the strength of three 3-pointers from Battier — who had been 2 for 19 from the field in the first four games of the series. Battier left his mark in many ways, even stopping a 3-on-1 Indiana break to set up a score by Wade at the other end.
"Shane came out very aggressive," Wade said. "When the ball starts going down for him, you know it's a great day because it keeps the floor spread."
But much like the Heat did in Game 4 when Indiana threatened to turn things into an early runaway, the Pacers settled down in a hurry.
The Pacers made Wade see blood early on, a couple of early flagrant fouls reminding everyone that these teams don't seem to like each other much.