The NBA playoffs had barely derailed the Miami Heat to this point. Even the Indiana Pacers weren't fighting the Heat as close as usual, as their third straight NBA playoff meeting was turning into a letdown. But in Game 5 on May 28, things finally got wild and crazy, thanks to LeBron James' foul trouble, Paul George's fourth quarter explosion and the Pacers' resurgence in a 93-90 victory.
James had several close calls go against him in the first half, leaving him sidelined for most of the second quarter. However, the Heat outscored the Pacers by 26-11 in the period anyway, to go up by 42-33 at halftime. Of all the ways the Pacers have found to lose in these playoffs, getting eliminated at home to the Heat with James on the bench would have been the final indignity.
Yet even with James playing more in the second half, the Pacers found new life. A 31-15 advantage in the third quarter put the Heat on their heels, and that was before George took over with 21 of the Pacers' 29 fourth quarter points -- but that still almost wasn't enough.
George's outburst and James' silence still couldn't put away the Heat. They closed the gap to 91-90 with seconds left, and almost stole an inbounds pass that was ultimately ruled off of Shane Battier. When Indiana went to the line afterwards, David West only made one free throw, setting the stage for Miami to either tie or win.
James only had seven points compared to his five fouls, but he still appeared to be the first option. Yet when he drove into the paint, he passed to Chris Bosh when he got open beyond the arc, instead of driving for the tie himself. This gamble for the win didn't pay off, as Bosh missed and West hit one more free throw with a second left.
After dominating the NBA playoffs to this point, James had his first true dud of a performance, at least when he was on the court. But since he was in foul trouble in Game 5 and likely won't be in Game 6 at home on May 30, the Pacers are still the heavy underdogs. If they needed George so badly in the fourth to survive an elimination game at Indiana, even with James largely inactive, how will they stand a Game 6 in Miami?