Whether the Indiana Pacers are better during the course of a playoff series, time — and circumstance — will tell.
But for a night, the Pacers were better than the defending NBA champions. Surprisingly better, especially on the boards.
Paul George scored 29 points, and David West added 14 to power the Pacers to an 87-77 win Tuesday night against the visiting Miami Heat.
Still playing without injured leader Danny Granger, the Pacers got enough from George and West — and from guard Lance Stephenson — to trump Miami’s All-Star trio of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh.
Although all three of the “Big Three” reached double figures, the Pacers (21-14) shut down the rest of the Heat. Only three other Miami players — starter Mario Chalmers and backups Norris Cole and Mike Miller — scored a point.
Wade had a game-high 30 points, and James and Bosh had 22 and 14, respectively. Cole, Chalmers and Miller combined for 11 points. Cole led the trio with five. Chalmers and Miller each had three.
Four other Miami players, including starter Udonis Haslem, went scoreless. All four played 11 or more minutes and were a combined 0-11 from the field.
Although the Pacers weren’t dramatically more prolific offensively (starter George Hill did not score), they were much sounder defensively and received multiple contributions from their bench.
Indiana, facing the East-leading Heat (23-10) for the first time since losing in this past year’s Eastern Conference Semifinals, limited Miami to 41 percent shooting and dominated the boards 55-36. Tyler Hansbrough, Gerald Green and Ian Mahinmi scored seven points each off the bench, and backup point guard D.J. Augustin made four free throws in the final 38 seconds to seal the win.
With George leading the way, the Pacers took control in the third quarter, using a 23-4 run to rally from a 7-point deficit for a 67-57 lead by the end of the period.
George scored 12 points in the decisive third quarter. For the night, he was 12 of 27 from the field, including 4 of 9 on three-point attempts. He also had 11 rebounds.
West was 6 of 13 from the floor with 11 rebounds and two steals. Roy Hibbert had only six points but grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds.
Indiana’s biggest lead of the game was 77-60 with 8:09 to play.
Seeming to have finally adjusted without Granger, who is out indefinitely with patellar tendinosis in his left knee, the Pacers have won 11 of their past 14 games, including eight of their past nine, heading into Thursday’s home game against the New York Knicks.
Indiana has an eight-game winning streak in Bankers Life Fieldhouse, its longest such stretch since winning 14 in a row in 2002-03.