The Miami Heat reclaimed their position atop the Eastern Conference with an impressive 98-86 win over the Indiana Pacers Friday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. The win pushes the Heat record to 54-25, and gives them a half game lead over the Pacers.
For the Heat, LeBron James led the way with a game-high 36 points, along with six rebounds. Mario Chalmers contributed 13 points, five rebounds, and five assists. Udonis Haslem finished with 11 points and nine rebounds.
For the Pacers, Paul George scored 22 points, to go along with five rebounds and five assists. David West pitched in 18 points and eight rebounds. Luis Scola added 12 points and five rebounds off the bench.
This game started off tightly contested, as most of the games with these two do. The Pacers took an early 25-23 lead after the first quarter.
The Heat played better defense in the second quarter, holding Indiana to just 17 points. They countered with 22 of their own, to take a 45-42 lead into halftime.
Miami came out of halftime on fire, jumping out to a 17-point lead with a 14-0 run to start the quarter. The lead swelled to as much as 23, before the Pacers cut it to 14 after the third quarter.
The Heat took a 76-62 lead into the fourth, and the Pacers cut the lead down to nine, 76-67. The Heat were able to keep that as the closest margin, and ran away with the victory at the end.
This was more along the lines of the Heat team we’ve come to know during this championship run. There was really good defense being played, as well as solid offense. But more importantly, the effort was there. Diving for loose balls, scrapping for rebounds, and doing the little things needed to beat a team like Indiana. Toney Douglas, starting for Dwyane Wade (missing his ninth consecutive game), only scored seven points, but his energy and defensive effort were just what Miami needed.
The Heat’s next game is Saturday night, when they take on the Atlanta Hawks (36-43) in Atlanta. The tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 PM ET.