Paul George tallied 24 points and six assists to help the Indiana Pacers pound NBA champions Miami 107-96 in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference final series on Sunday.
The Pacers started well, draining six of their first seven three-point attempts en route to a wire-to-wire victory that launched the best-of-seven series against the two-time defending NBA champs.
“We have been struggling in the opening games of playoff series at home,” George said. “If we were to lose the first game against a great club like the Miami Heat it would have made this a very long series.”
The Pacers shot 59 percent from the field in the first half to lead 55-45 at halftime in front of a crowd of 18,165 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
Indiana continued to dictate the pace in the second half, leading by as much as 19 in the third quarter in a rematch of last year’s conference championship, which Miami won in seven games.
The Heat also defeated the Pacers in the quarter-finals of the 2012 playoffs.
Game 2 was to be held yesterday in Indianapolis and the winner of the series will play either San Antonio or Oklahoma City in next month’s NBA finals.
In Sunday’s game, Roy Hibbert and David West scored 19 points each for the Pacers, whose entire starting five finished in double figures.
Hibbert also had nine rebounds and three assists as the Pacers moved to 6-0 in this year’s playoffs when he scores 10 points or more.
Lance Stephenson posted 17 points, eight assists and four rebounds, while George Hill added 15 points for Indiana, who improved to 4-4 at home in the playoffs.
The Pacers shot 42.1 percent from three-point range on Sunday.
“We moved the ball. We shared it and we played with energy,” George said after the game. “We didn’t let the ball stay stagnant.”
Dwyane Wade scored 27 points and LeBron James had 25 points and 10 rebounds for the Heat, who beat the Brooklyn Nets in five games to reach the conference finals.
“We are a confident team and we feel like we can win here,” Wade said. “We’re going to have to play a lot better on the defensive end of the floor.”
George warned that the Pacers cannot relax in Game 2.
“They [the Heat] are the champions. They know what it is like to be in the position they are in right now. We got to come out and play the same way we did tonight,” he added.