The reigning NBA champion Heat took a 3-2 lead over the Pacers in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals. The winner of the series will face Western Conference champion San Antonio in the league’s title series beginning June 6.
Trailing 44-40 at halftime, the Heat out-scored Indiana 30-13 in a third quarter that may prove to be the difference in what has been a close, physical and sometimes testy series.
Fittingly it was James, who recently collected the fourth regular-season Most Valuable Player award of his career, leading the charge. He single-handedly out-scored the Pacers by three points and also handed out four assists of his six assists and grabbed four of his eight rebounds.
“That’s LeBron showing his greatness, and making it look easy,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “His engine in that third quarter was just incredible. “He was tireless. He was making plays on both ends of the court, rebounding, covering so much ground defensively and making virtually every play for us offensively.
“It’s really remarkable and a testament to his conditioning and to his greatness — his ability to make big plays when you need them.” The Heat will try to finish off the Pacers in Indiana in Game Six on Saturday and return to the NBA finals for the third straight year.