Miami Heat's LeBron James, right, hangs from the net after a dunk as the Indiana Pacers' George Hill looks on during the third quarter in Game 5 of their NBA Eastern Conference finals series Thursday in Miami. The Heat won, 90-79.
MIAMI -- The Miami Heat rallied with a strong third quarter to defeat the Indiana Pacers 90-79 Thursday night at AmericanAirlines Arena, pushing the underdog Pacers to the brink of elimination.
LeBron James led the Heat with 30 points, eight rebounds and six assists.
The Heat leads the Eastern Conference finals 3-2 and has a chance to advance with a win Saturday night in Indianapolis.
If the Pacers are to win the series, they will have to beat the Heat twice in a row, including a potential Game 7 Monday night in Miami. The Heat haven’t lost two in a row since Jan. 8 and 10, when they lost at Indiana and at Portland.
The Pacers were led by Paul George, who had 27 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. Roy Hibbert added 22 points and six rebounds.
The Heat took control of the game by closing the third quarter on a 19-4 run for a 70-57 lead.
James had 16 points in the quarter. He scored or assisted on 25 of the Heat’s 30 points in the period.
Some of his assists were to Udonis Haslem, who made five of five shots in the period, including baseline jumpers on three straight possessions.
Earlier in the quarter, the game’s intensity was obvious when Heat guard Mario Chalmers pushed David West. After West confronted Chalmers, Haslem came in to protect his point guard. All three players were hit with technical fouls, resulting in one Pacers free throw.
The Pacers went into halftime with a 44-40 lead despite 11 points from James. Chris Bosh had seven points for Miami, and Dwyane Wade had five.
George led all scorers with 15 first-half points, including 13 in the first quarter. Hibbert had 14 points at the break, including 10 in the opening quarter. George and Hibbert combined to score all of Indiana’s first-quarter points.
Chris “Birdman” Andersen fired up Heat fans in the second quarter. First, he made a layup, giving him 17 straight successful shot attempts from the floor, dating back to the second round of the playoffs against the Chicago Bulls.
Then, with 9:02 left in the half, Andersen delivered a strong forearm to Tyler Hansbrough with no provocation from the Pacers forward. Andersen was whistled for a flagrant one foul.
After Hansbrough made one of two free throws, he tried a post-up move, but Andersen came flying in from off the ball to block the shot, drawing a wild response from the fans.
The Pacers led 23-19 after the first quarter despite the fact that they lost starting shooting guard Lance Stephenson for the final 9:32 of the period after he was called for two quick fouls.
The Pacers also blew three first-quarter layups -- two by West and one by Hibbert.
Hibbert also had an effect on defense, blocking Bosh at the rim.
NOTES: James shot 5-for-7 in the post in Game 3 but just 1-for-6 in those situations in Game 4. … Wade has gone 11 consecutive games without scoring at least 20 points, the longest stretch of his career. … Entering Thursday, the Pacers had a plus-40 rebounding edge in the series. … Hibbert had outrebounded Bosh 48-13 in the series through Game 4. Hibbert’s scoring average had increased from 11.9 points in the regular season to 22.7 in this series. … Hibbert also is making a major impact on defense. With Hibbert on the floor in the first four games, James drove the lane 18 times, scoring just five points and passing on 11 of those occasions. With Hibbert out of the game, James had hit the paint 10 times and made five of six shots.