Heat beat Pacers thanks to hot shooting late
Miami, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - It was a struggle for the Eastern Conference's top 3-point shooting team, but the Miami Heat kept chucking.
And finally, those shots began to fall.
Ray Allen nailed a go-ahead 3-pointer with 59.5 seconds remaining, Dwyane Wade scored a season-high 32 points and the Heat escaped with a 97-94 win over the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday.
Miami, which came in shooting 38.6 percent from beyond the arc, missed its first nine from deep before connecting on five of its last 12 attempts.
The Heat trailed by as many as 15 in the third quarter, but battled back and consecutive 3s by Chris Bosh and Allen gave Miami its first lead, 95-92, since it was 14-13 during the middle stages of the first quarter.
David West sunk two free throws at the other end to cut the deficit to 95-94 with 44.4 seconds left and Chris Andersen misfired from the right baseline on Miami's next touch, but George Hill threw a pass behind Paul George along the left baseline and LeBron James picked it off with 13.9 ticks on the clock.
Allen then made two free throws and George's step-through 3-pointer from the top of the arc was well off the mark with 4.1 seconds remaining to seal the outcome.
It was the second meeting between the two Eastern Conference heavyweights in just over a week. The Pacers, who lost in seven games to Miami in last year's Eastern Conference finals, beat the Heat 90-84 on their home floor last Tuesday.
The teams don't meet again until March 26.
James was a game-time decision after he hurt his left ankle in Monday's win over the Utah Jazz. He had 24 points, nine rebounds and seven assists for Miami, which closed the game on a 12-2 run.
"He knows his body and he knows his ankle," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of James. "He looked fine."
The Heat tallied 50 points in the paint as Indiana rim protector Roy Hibbert was saddled with foul trouble. He picked up his fifth foul early in the third.
George finished with 25 points, eight boards and six helpers for the Pacers, who have dropped back-to-back tilts for the first time this season. West poured in 23 points in defeat.
"We knew they were going to make a run," George said. "We just didn't rally."
Lance Stephenson netted nine points in the opening frame as Indiana took a 26-22 lead into the second. That margin increased to 36-24 after Luis Scola capped a 10-2 run with a jumper to start the second.
James then scored six points as Miami countered with nine straight to pull within 36-33 midway through the period, but he picked up his third foul with 4:26 to go and sat for the rest of the half.
The Pacers took advantage as back-to-back buckets by George concluded an 11-4 swing, which gave the visitors a 52-39 lead before they settled for a 52-41 cushion heading into the break.
Hibbert picked up two quick fouls in the beginning stages of third and sat on the bench with his fifth at the 8:34 mark. Indiana, meanwhile, pushed its advantage to 66-51 midway through the quarter after George sunk three free throws.
The Heat clawed back late in the third.
Norris Cole and Rashard Lewis nailed back-to-back triples for Miami's first two makes from deep. James then put in the final five points of the 11-2 flurry, which he capped with a three-point play after he threw down a dunk over West to whittle the Heat deficit to 74-69.
Indiana led 76-71 after three and 92-85 with 3:20 remaining.
The Heat moved within a game of Indiana for the Eastern Conference's top record ... Miami scored 19 points off 16 Pacers turnovers ... Bosh had 15 points and eight rebounds.
12/18 22:47:49 ET