Published May 22, 2012
| Sports Network
LeBron James didn't want to admit the Heat were a desperate team on Sunday.
"That's a strong word," the superstar said.
Perhaps, but facing the prospect of a third consecutive loss in their Eastern Conference semifinals set with Indiana, James and the Heat needed a win and any adjective used to describe how badly they needed it was inconsequential.
In the end, James' actions told the real story and instead of returning to South Florida for Tuesday's night Game 5 in a two-game hole, the Heat are back sporting some of their trademark swagger thanks to James and his running mate, the embattled Dwyane Wade.
LeBron and D-Wade scored 38 straight points for Miami in the middle of Game 4 as the Heat earned a 101-93 victory over the Pacers to even their set at two games apiece.
James was spectacular, piecing together one of the great postseason performances of all-time with 40 points, 18 rebounds and nine assists. Meanwhile, after a bad first half, Wade was just a step behind, adding 30 points, nine boards and six helpers in the Heat's best performance since All- Star big man Chris Bosh went down with a strained abdominal muscle in Game 1.
"They've been through quite a few battles," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of the two stars. "We went through quite a bit last year. All the series we went through were highly-competitive, so they understand with one of our main components out that they have to step up."
In the 3,000-plus playoff games in NBA history, only one other player has scored 40 points, grabbed 18 rebounds, and recorded nine assists in a game, the Lakers' legendary Elgin Baylor, who turned the trick against Detroit back in Game 1 of the 1961 Western Division semifinals, some 51 years ago.
James and Wade scored 48-of-50 points for the Heat in Game 4 between the latter stages of the second quarter and early in the fourth. Udonis Haslem picked up some of the slack down the stretch, scoring eight of his 14 points in the final quarter.
Danny Granger led the Pacers with 20 points, Darren Collison had 16 off the bench, Paul George scored 13 and Roy Hibbert chipped in 10 with nine rebounds.
Hibbert and David West, who scored eight, both played in foul trouble.
The third-seeded Pacers had taken a 2-1 lead in the series after two wins in a row, including last Thursday night's 94-75 rout. And they were on a roll early on Sunday.
The Heat, seeded second and the clear favorites to come out of the East with Chicago gone, trailed by double digits in the first and second quarter before James and Wade went off.
"We're a complete team. We've handled runs like that all year," said Indiana coach Frank Vogel. "We tried to handle it, but we didn't handle it enough."
After scoring the last 10 points of the second quarter, James and Wade had the first 28 of the third for Miami. The two superstars led the Heat to a 30-16 frame -- this after Miami was outscored by a combined 54-26 in the same period in Games 2 and 3.
"You get the ball out of one of those guys' hands," said Vogel, "and it finds its way to the other guy."
While James' stats had a bigger impact on the game, it was the re-emergence of Wade that seemed to flip a switch in Miami. He was coming off a dreadful Game 3 in which he scored just five points -- all in the second half -- on 2-of-13 shooting.
"I just wanted to come out today and affect the game somehow," Wade said Sunday. "Obviously I knew I was struggling offensively but I didn't want that to affect my whole game."
When it was over James and Wade had outscored (43-39) and outrebounded (19-18) the entire Pacers team in the second half.
Home-court advantage is now back with the Heat but Vogel remains confident that Miami still hasn't seen Indiana's best effort.
"We're ready to go," Vogel said. "We still have a great deal of belief. They haven't beaten our best."
Spoelstra, on the other hand, knows he is still in a dogfight.
"This is the epitome of a 2-3 matchup," the Heat mentor said. "It's a long series and right now it's just survival."
Miami won three of the four from Indiana in the regular season. The only other playoff meeting between the Pacers and Heat came in 2004 in the East semifinals with Indiana winning in six games.
Game 6 of the series will be in on Thursday in Indianapolis.