The Miami Heat have tied up their Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the Indiana Pacers, taking Game 4 101-93. LeBron James was an assist short of a triple-double, scoring 40 points with 18 rebounds and 9 assists.
To put James' performance in perspective, only one player has put up 40 points and 18 rebounds in a playoff game in the past ten years, Dwight Howard. When Howard did that, though, he only had 1 assist, not 9.
Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem, co-captains and the two remaining members of the Heat's 2006 championship squad, both gave huge bounceback performances. Wade scored 30 points and grabbed 9 rebounds, making 11 straight shots between the second and fourth quarters. Haslem contributed 14 points off the bench, providing the Heat with a badly-needed third scoring option with Chris Bosh out of action.
James, Wade and Haslem scored every field goal for the Heat over the last 30 minutes of the game.
Danny Granger led the Pacers with 20 points, while Roy Hibbert failed to match his strong performance from Game 3, scoring only 10 points but adding 9 rebounds. He put up 19 and 18 in Game 3, but foul trouble limited his minutes in the second half.
Before the game, Heat forward Juwan Howard got into a verbal altercation with Indiana reserve Lance Stephenson. The two exchanged words on the court and had to be separated by teammates. In Game 3, Stephenson made a choke sign after LeBron James missed a free throw. Later Thursday, with the game out of reach, Howard set a hard screen on Stephenson.
Stephenson apologized to the Heat on Saturday for the incident, but Howard appeared not to be ready to let his gesture slide. Howard approached Stephenson on the court and spoke to him for under a minute before the Pacers bench intervened.
ESPN reported Sunday that Stephenson's commentary from the bench during the series had been "getting on Heat players' nerves." Tension was evident throughout the game. Danny Granger was charged a technical foul in the second quarter when he got in Dwyane Wade's face after Wade took exception to a hard foul by Roy Hibbert. It was Granger's third technical of the series.
Miami got off to a slow start, falling behind 25-18 after the first quarter even though the Pacers shot just 36%. Indiana led 54-46 at halftime, as James' 19 first half points helped keep Miami within striking distance.
The tide turned in the third quarter, as it had in the previous three games in the series. Miami outscored the Pacers 30-18 in the third quarter to take the lead for good. Both James and Wade scored 14 points in third quarter.
Miami held Indiana to 42 percent shooting for the game, while improving to 48 percent shooting on offense. The Heat's three-point woes were partially alleviated, as the team shot 5 of 12 from downtown.
The win puts home-court advantage back in the Heat's hands. Game 5 is scheduled for Tuesday night in Miami, with Game 6 on Thursday in Indianapolis.