MVP James, Heat top Pacers 95-86, await Bosh word
By TIM REYNOLDS
And if Bosh doesn't return soon, it may have to become a trend.
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 - to help the Heat survive some rough stretches and pull out a 95-86 victory over the Indiana Pacers in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series Sunday night.
Wade scored 29 points for the Heat, but the concern level was ramped up considerably afterward because of Bosh, who did not play in the second half because of a lower abdominal strain. The Heat said Monday that Bosh was out indefinitely after an MRI exam confirmed the diagnosis.
"Our brother is going to go (Monday) to see if he can get back out there and play with us," Wade said. "If not, then we've got to have someone step up very big. You can't fill Chris Bosh's shoes."
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. Wade and James scored 42 points in the second half, while Indiana's entire roster managed 38.
"We started to get defensive stops," James said. "We started getting things rolling."
Game 2 is Tuesday in Miami.
James scored 16 points alone in the fourth, matching Indiana's total. Nonetheless, the Pacers sounded confident for days leading up to the start of the series, and left Sunday night sounding the same way.
"We have the capability to beat these guys," said Hibbert, who was guarding Bosh on the play when he got hurt.
Bosh caught a pass from James near the foul line late in the first half, took one dribble to start a drive past Hibbert, got down the lane and dunked the ball hard with his left hand while the Indiana center appeared to hit his right arm. Bosh fell forward as he landed, resting on his hands and knees for about 15 seconds before getting up slowly. He made his free throw, and as he headed back the other way he grimaced and grabbed at his midsection.
He was defending Hibbert on the ensuing possession, simply letting him get off a shot as he fell forward to his hands and knees again. Bosh looked at the Miami bench, got up and headed to the locker room for evaluation. He did not return, and sitting courtside, his wife, Adrienne, covered her anguished expression with her hands as he hobbled off.
"We hope for the best," James said.
Added Hibbert: "I didn't even know what happened to him. I made a clean play. I fouled him."
The Pacers were called for 31 fouls on Sunday, and that was not one of the ones they argued.
In the days before the series, Indiana coach Frank Vogel got the league's attention - and a $15,000 fine - for accusing Miami of flopping in an effort to sway foul calls. Stern said in a televised interview Sunday that he would have fined Vogel more, though acknowledged it may be time to examine if flopping should be further addressed by the league.
Either way, Vogel's words didn't seem to have much effect on Sunday's game. And even after Vogel said his team committed too many fouls to be successful in Game 1, the Pacers took issue afterward with the 31-22 discrepancy in fouls and 38-28 discrepancy in free-throws attempted.
"You saw the stat sheet," Pacers forward Danny Granger said. "That's all I'm going to say about that."
Also on that stat sheet: Granger shot 1 for 10 in the game, scoring only seven points.
"I don't know if he's going to have a huge offensive series," Vogel said. "When you have to guard the MVP for 38 minutes, it takes a lot out of your offensive game."
Indiana shot 50 percent in the first half and 30 percent in the second, missing its final nine shots.
"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 went cold from the field, 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.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra told James he would get him a quick rest somewhere in the second half. Eventually, Spoelstra realized that wasn't going to happen.
"I just looked at him straight in the eyes and said, `You can flat-out not get tired, period,'" Spoelstra said. "And he made MVP plays on both ends of the court."
Wade shot only 8 for 23 from the field, and the Heat missed all six of their attempts from 3-point range - a first in team playoff history. But the Heat held a 45-38 rebounding edge, and allowed Indiana to make only 11 of 37 shots after halftime.
Still, the Pacers weren't shaken afterward.
"We're not just here to play. We're here to win," Hibbert said. "We need to win Game 2 and come back strong."
NOTES: Miami is allowing 83 points per game so far in the playoffs. ... The Heat extended their franchise record with a 59th straight home playoff sellout. ... Hibbert has at least 10 rebounds in five of his six playoff games so far this year. ... Darren Collison had six assists for Indiana, with three turnovers - two more than he had, total, in five games against Orlando in the first round.
Updated May 14, 2012