Indiana Pacers' Paul George finished with 28 points, eight rebounds… (Ronald Martinez / Getty…)
INDIANAPOLIS — And now it's a one-game series.
The Miami Heat will have to play once more in its bid to punch its ticket to a third consecutive appearance in the NBA Finals. Facing elimination, the Indiana Pacers defeated the Heat, 91-77, Saturday in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals.
The series shifts back to Miami for a deciding Game 7 Monday at AmericanAirlines Arena. For the Heat, it marks the second consecutive year of going the distance in the conference finals.
To make it back to the Finals, Miami will have to defeat a Pacers team full of confidence. Indiana will try to hand the Heat back-to-back losses for the first time since early January, when it fell to the Pacers and the Portland Trail Blazers.
"We have to come out and play to win," Heat guard Dwyane Wade said. "It's one game for both teams. This is why we work hard for home-court advantage. . . . We are just going to have to self-will it and we'll see how we respond as a team."
The Heat was unable to close out the series at the same stage at which it was so successful in the previous game. This time there would be no halftime speech from veteran Juwan Howard to spark the team to a strong third-quarter start.
On this night, the Pacers came out in the second half like a team not ready for its season to end. They opened with a 14-3 run that awoke the sellout crowd of 18,165 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The highlight of the spurt was center Roy Hibbert's pump-faking at the free-throw line and then driving past Heat center Joel Anthony for a one-handed slam that made it 53-42 with 5:49 remaining in the third quarter.
"All across the board, they just flat out beat us in every facet of the game," Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra said. "They outclassed us that quarter."
The Pacers led by many as 17 before holding off the Heat's late surge. Miami made its move with swingman Mike Miller as an unlikely catalyst. Miller hit a pair of three-pointers to make it 70-64 with 8:11 left.
After a David West jumpshot slowed the rally, LeBron James scored on consecutive driving layups to make it a four-point game. It was the closest the Heat would get.
Pacers forward Paul George hit an open three-pointer at the top of the key, ending the Heat's comeback bid.
"These guys made some big shots in the fourth quarter," Pacers Coach Frank Vogel said. "When the champions are making a run like they are . . . you need somebody that can break down the defense on his own late in the clock. That was a big shot by Paul."
Frustrations hit a high when James, who scored 29 points, received a technical foul after being called for a charge on Hibbert with 4:18 left. Assistant coach David Fizdale was also given a technical.
"I thought it was a pretty bad call," James said. "I don't complain about calls too much. I thought me and Hibbert met at the mountaintop."
It was yet another dominant game for Hibbert, who finished with 24 points and 11 rebounds. George had 28 points, eight rebounds and five assists. The combo was just too much for a Heat team not quite at full strength and only one-third of its All-Star trio, James, producing.
Miami, playing without suspended reserve forward Chris Andersen, got only 10 points from Wade and five from Bosh, on a combined four for 19 from the field.
"I believe in my teammates," James said. ". . . They've got another opportunity on Monday. I look forward to the challenge and I know they do as well."