LeBron James, Heat match best start in team history
INDIANAPOLIS -- LeBron James and Dwyane Wade found a way to motivate their teammates Tuesday night.
They challenged them to play for history.
James scored 23 points and nearly produced his first triple-double in 11 months as Miami rolled to a 105-90 victory at Indiana to become the first NBA team in 33 years to win three road games in three nights.
No big deal to these All-Stars.
"I think as far as team chemistry, we got better every single night," James said. "Tonight we had 17 assists. We rebounded and defended. When we do that, we're very, very tough to beat and it shows the professionalism of the group."
Some thought it was time for Miami's remarkable run to come crashing down.
They were playing their fourth road game in five days and were facing a team that had just gotten a two-day break and had hoped to make amends for a 35-point loss last month in Miami.
Instead, Indiana got Miami at full power.
After a quick start, the Heat dominated every facet until the closing minutes when the Pacers finally started trimming the lead.
Miami matched the three-game feat last achieved by Phoenix from Dec. 21-23, 1979. Miami also became the first team to win each of the three games by double digits since Milwaukee from Nov. 20-22, 1970. Plus, at 23-7, Miami has now tied the franchise's best start.
"Our guys wanted this challenge and we were well aware it had not been done in 40 years, to back-to-back-to-back on the road and be able to stay focused," said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who wasn't even a month old when the Bucks pulled off their feat. "We threw out anything we could have used as a crutch."
And the Heat never gave Indiana a chance.
Things were going so well at halftime that James turned to the crowd and acted like he was reeling in a fish. Then during a third-quarter timeout, Mike Miller grabbed something resembling a rope from the team trainer and acted like he was going to bring in a steer. There were smiles all around all night long.
But instead of looking fatigued, the Heat did all the little things right -- making crisp passes, playing strong defense and rarely giving the Pacers (17-11) an open lane to the basket.
James had nine points and six assists in the first 14 minutes. He finished with nine rebounds and seven assists.
Wade made his first five shots and had 10 points in a little more than eight minutes.
Rookie Norris Cole tied his season-high with 20 points, and Chris Bosh had 13 points and seven rebounds.
And there was no letdown anywhere. Miami limited the Pacers (17-11) to 6-of-23 shooting in the first quarter and only a late flourish allowed the Pacers to finally climb over the 40 percent mark.
It was downright ugly for Indiana, which lost its fourth straight.
"Pretty embarrassing," Indiana center Roy Hibbert said after scoring 10 points. "They just hit us at the start and we just weren't able to recover. ... None of us came ready to play tonight."
David West led the Pacers with 14 points and Paul George had 12, not nearly enough to avoid a fourth consecutive loss. Even worse, the Pacers (17-11) lost leading scorer Danny Granger with a sprained left ankle late in the first quarter. He did not return, finished with three points and could miss more time this week.
"Yeah, that's my anticipation," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said of Granger. "I don't think he can play (Wednesday at Cleveland)."
Pacers fans had hoped for more after the weary Pacers finally got a two-day break.
But James and the Heat never game Indiana a chance.
Miami used an early 10-0 run to take a 23-9 lead less than eight minutes into the game and led 33-16 after the first quarter. It extended the lead to 51-24 midway through the second quarter and led 68-39 at the half.
Indiana never got closer than 20 until A.J. Price put in a layup to make it 101-83 with 1:49 left in the game, and the Heat got a well-deserved day off.
"I am not looking at Friday right now, I'm looking for a day off," a relieved James said. "Tomorrow's going to be the best day of my life."
Pacers guard George Hill missed his ninth straight game with a chip fracture in his left ankle. ... Miami has now won four straight at Indy after losing the previous 14 in a row at Indy. ... Heat forward Juwan Howard was ejected after drawing two technical fouls in the last 61 seconds. ... Indiana played in front of its third sellout crowd this season. ... After the game, James gave his shoes to a woman who brought in a sign reading "Be My Valentine."
Regular Season Series
MIA leads 2-0
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2022-23 Southeast Standings