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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — LeBron James grabbed a seat on Miami’s bench, lowered his head and stared down at the floor. Way down.
Roy Hibbert had 19 points and 18 rebounds, George Hill scored 20 and Danny Granger 17 as the Pacers, showing more balance, toughness and togetherness than favored Miami, throttled the malfunctioning Heat 94-75 on Thursday night in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Overlooked during the regular season and given little chance to upset the reigning East champions, the Pacers took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Game 4 is Sunday at raucous Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
James scored 22 — 16 in the first half before wearing down — and Mario Chalmers added 25 for Miami. However, Dwyane Wade, banged up and possibly slowed by a more serious injury, scored only 5 on 2-of-13 shooting for the Heat, already missing forward Chris Bosh due to injury
because of a strained abdominal muscle. Bosh is not expected to return for this series.
“It’s obvious he wasn’t himself.” James said of Wade. “Does he want to play better? Of course. He’s one of the best players in the world.”
Wade didn’t play like one and he also had an angry exchange during a timeout in the third quarter with coach Erik Spoelstra, who dismissed it as a heat-of-battle incident.
“That happens,” Spoelstra said. “Anybody that has been part of a team or has been a coach or been a player, you have no idea how often things like that happen. That was during a very emotional part of the game. We were getting our butt kicked. Those exchanges happen all the time during the course of an NBA season.
“There’s going to be a lot of times where guys say something, you don’t like it. You get over it and you move on. We’re all connected. Dwyane and I have been together for a long time, a long time. We’ve been through basically everything. A lot of different roles, a lot of different teams. That really is nothing. That is the least of our concern. That type of fire, shoot, that’s good. That’s the least of our concerns. Our concern is getting for Sunday.”
Wade wouldn’t discuss his dispute with Spoelstra.