By Clyde Hughes
Special to The Miami Herald
INDIANAPOLIS - Facing elimination in the Eastern Conference finals on Saturday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the Pacers determined early they would ride center Roy Hibbert and forward Paul George as far and as long as they could.
Indiana's dynamic duo refused to let the Pacers die, getting help from its supporting cast along the way at critical times to stave off elimination with a 91-77 victory.
Hibbert's 24 points and 11 rebounds along with George's 28 points provided firepower Indiana was missing in Game 5. David West, playing reduced minutes because of an illness with a temperature of over 100, grabbed 14 rebounds and scored eight of his 11 points in the final quarter.
"It's all about heart," Indiana coach Frank Vogel said of West's performance, particularly in the fourth quarter. "That guy is all heart, and it's contagious. I don't really have words for it to be honest with you."
George's three-pointer at the 5:28 mark of the fourth quarter gave the Pacers a 75-68 lead. Miami had cut a 13-point deficit to start the period to four points (72-68), ending with consecutive baskets by LeBron James.
George's basket sparked a 9-0 run that included two technical foul free throws, which gave the Pacers enough to across the Game 6 finish line.
"We knew they were going to make a run," George said. "This team, they're deadly offensively. They can really put points up. That's just us staying together, being poised and just rallying. Lance (Stephenson) made some big plays offensively on the boards to get us some extra possessions. We shared the ball. We made huge plays when we needed to."
In Game 5 in Miami, the Heat used a big third quarter to turn that contest in its favor. On Saturday, it was the Pacers' time to use the same period as a springboard. Indiana held the Heat to six points over the first 10 minutes of the period.
With the defensive effort well in hand, Hibbert and George provided the offense, scoring 19 of the Pacers' 29 points in the third quarter.
Hibbert's dunk off the dribble with 5:48 left in the third quarter capped a 14-2 Pacers run to start the third to give Indiana a 53-42 lead. The dunk appeared to double the noise volume in the arena - energy the Pacers needed after an up-and-down first half.
"Roy Hibbert is making extraordinary plays in the pocket," Vogel said. "He's getting the paint catches, and he's just having great poise and great reads. Roy is playing the best basketball of his career right now. He's leading us, and he's a big reason why we are where we are."
George added a three-pointer at the 5:05 mark after Dwyane Wade made a long-range shot to help maintain Indiana's momentum.
"What separated us (in the third quarter) was being able to get into transition and trying to strike early," George said. "Their half-court defense is tough. We really executed."
Hibbert said the aftertaste of Game 5's third quarter still lingered for the Pacers and actually provided incentive for them after halftime.
"We had a couple of bad possessions at the beginning of the third, but we rallied," Hibbert said. "Paul made big shots for us and found me on a pick and roll. We realized the third quarter let us down, so we tried to take advantage of that and come out aggressive."