Miami, FL – Newly-minted NBA MVP LeBron James had 32 points, 15 rebounds and five assists on Sunday and the Heat grinded out a 95-86 win over the Pacers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
The game was tied after three quarters, but Miami opened the fourth with an 8-2 run and never relinquished the lead after that.
Dwyane Wade added 29 points for the second-seeded Heat, who defeated the Knicks in five games to advance to the second round. They have won 13 straight playoff home games versus Eastern Conference opponents.
Chris Bosh scored 13 points but suffered a lower abdominal strain shortly before halftime and did not return.
"He was in a little bit of pain going into the locker room but we won't know until we get an MRI," said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.
David West and Roy Hibbert both recorded a double-double for the Pacers, who also won their opening series in five games, downing the Dwight Howard-less Magic to reach the second round for the first time since 2005.
West had 17 points and 12 rebounds, while Hibbert had 17 and 11.
"We're not going to change," said West. "We didn't play a good enough game tonight as a group to compete with these guys. We can play a lot better than we did."
Game 2 is set for Tuesday in Miami.
James, who on Saturday won his third MVP award in the last four seasons, scored 16 points in the fourth quarter and continuously got to the basket or the foul line down the stretch.
The Pacers kept it close, cutting their deficit to 86-85 on George Hill's three-pointer with five minutes remaining but James responded with four straight points. He went 6-for-6 from the foul line in the quarter and buried a pullup jumper inside the final minute to put the game away.
"He made MVP plays on both ends of the court," said Spoelstra. "The rebounding, defending (West), but also creating a lot of offense for us. Particularly in the fourth quarter when we needed some relief."
The Pacers led for the entire second quarter and took their largest lead of the game when West converted a layup to make it 46-37 shortly before the half.
Less than a minute later Bosh dunked over Hibbert and drew the foul. He was injured on the play but made the ensuing free throw to cut Miami's deficit to 48-42 at the break.
Despite the absence of their most significant low post threat, the Heat punished the Pacers inside in the third quarter, posting an 18-4 scoring advantage in the paint.
"It wasn't a panic situation," continued Spoelstra. "We don't know Chris' status but we have great versatility with this group and a collective resolve regardless of what happens."
James is the eighth player in NBA history to win at least three MVP awards. He joins Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (6), Michael Jordan and Bill Russell (5), Wilt Chamberlain (4) and Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Moses Malone (3)...The Heat won the regular season series over the Pacers, 3-1...Wade has scored in double figures in a Heat postseason record 90 straight games...This is the second all-time matchup between the teams in the postseason. Indiana captured a 4-2 series win in the previous encounter, which occurred in the 2004 semifinals.