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Miami Heat guard Ray Allen (34) drives to the basket over Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert (55) during the second half of Game 3 in the NBA basketball Eastern Conference finals playoff series
James, Heat scorch Pacers Miami takes 2-1 lead in East Conference final

MIAMI, May 25, (AFP): Miami clamped down in the third quarter and Ray Allen came up big in the fourth on Saturday as the Heat rallied for a 99-87 NBA playoff victory over Indiana. Heat superstar LeBron James scored 12 of his 26 points in the third period as two-time defending NBA champions Miami shook off a slow start to turn the tide in the second half. With the victory, the Heat took a two-games-to-one lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference Final and will try to stretch that lead when they host game four on Monday. The winners of the series will face either San Antonio or Oklahoma City for the NBA crown. Miami trailed by as many as 15 points in the first half. They took the lead for the first time with 7:36 remaining in the third quarter, when James capped an 8-0 scoring run with a fastbreak dunk for a 52-51 edge. James and teammate Dwyane Wade combined for 22 points in the third — matching the entire Pacers’ total — as Miami built a 71-64 advantage.

“We had no choice but to try to re-gather,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, whose team matched the second-largest playoff comeback in franchise history. The Pacers got within two points in the fourth, but Allen came up big, making all four of his three-point attempts in a 13-point effort in the final frame. James added seven assists, five rebounds and four steals. Wade finished with 23 points, four rebounds and four assists. Indiana forward Paul George, who suffered a concussion in the fourth quarter of Indiana’s 87-83 game two loss on Tuesday, led the Pacers with 17 points, while Roy Hibbert chipped in 16. But George said the Pacers got complacent. “You can’t play around with this team,” he said. “I thought we got comfortable at one point.”

The Pacers had pounced on the sluggish Heat early, forcing seven turnovers and holding them to six-of-16 shooting from the field in the opening quarter. James said the Heat were victims of their own “mental breakdowns” on offense in the early going. But he added that they were also too passive. “We’re an attack team,” he said. “If we get to our game, so many things happen for us and we’re even able to cover up for some of our mistakes that we make.” Miami trailed 19-5 with 2:42 left in the first but closed the period with a 9-2 run that narrowed the gap to 21-14 going into the second. A 10-2 scoring run by the Pacers stretched their lead to 37-22 with 6:22 left in the second, but the Heat had narrowed the gap to four, 42-38, at halftime.

George Hill scored five straight Indiana points to push the lead to 51-44 three minutes into the third before Wade’s layup sparked the 8-0 Heat run that James capped with is dunk. After a welter of lead changes, Allen drained three free throws to give the Heat a 62-61 lead that they wouldn’t relinquish. The Heat did get a scare when James went to the locker room after the third for treatment of cramps, which he later put down to dehydration. He returned to the game, but it was Allen who starred in the fourth, with three of his four three-pointers coming in less than four minutes after the Pacers had narrowed the deficit to 76-74 with 8:37 remaining.

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