James scored 32 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in his first game as a three-time MVP, Wade finished with 29 despite struggling from the floor, and the Heat beat the Indiana Pacers 95-86 to open their Eastern Conference semifinal series on Sunday.
Chris Bosh scored 13 points for Miami, but left late in the first half with a lower abdominal injury and did not return, with the Heat saying he was scheduled for an MRI to determine the extent of the problem. The Heat outscored Indiana 25-16 in the fourth, with Wade and James combining for 22 of those points.
Wade and James outscored Indiana 42-38 in the second half.
“It’s a battle and we know, regardless of being at home, being away, who we’re playing, what round, it’s tough to win in the playoffs and you have to fight for every single possession,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “And that’s what it was.”
“I thought we were just on our heels a little too much,” West said.
Game 2 is Tuesday in Miami.
The Heat never led by more than two until 9:20 remained in the game, when a layup by James gave Miami a 76-72 edge. Wade added another basket about 30 seconds later, and the margin eventually reached eight when James made two free throws with 7:52 left.
Back came Indiana, which got within 86-85 on a 3-pointer by Hill with 4:51 left after Miami went cold again. But one big flurry — capped by a dunk from James in transition and Wade coming from behind to block a shot by Paul George at the rim about a half-minute later — gave the Heat some breathing room.
Wade and James scored 20 straight Miami points in the fourth, a string ended by a free throw from Joel Anthony with 1:05 left. After Hibbert missed a jumper on the next Indiana possession, James connected with 31.8 seconds left for a 95-86 Miami lead, and it was soon over.
“Definitely not our best game,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “We didn’t shoot it very well. … It came down to execution in the fourth quarter and you’ve got to give credit to Miami’s defense.”
Wade shot only 8 for 23 from the field, and the Heat missed all six of their attempts from 3-point range — a first in team playoff history. But the Heat held a 45-38 rebounding edge, and allowed Indiana to make only 11 of 37 shots after halftime.
Danny Granger shot 1 for 10 for Indiana, scoring only seven points.
“I don’t know if he’s going to have a huge offensive series,” Vogel said. “When you have to guard the MVP for 38 minutes, it takes a lot out of your offensive game.”
Commissioner David Stern was on hand to present James with his MVP trophy in a pregame ceremony that was capped by the Heat star telling fans how “electricity” was going to be important throughout the playoffs.
One team came out electrified — and it wasn’t Miami.
The Pacers trailed for only 56 seconds in the first half, never down by more than a basket. Indiana opened the game with an 11-4 run, held Miami to 37 percent shooting in the first two quarters, and rode the strength of a 19-6 edge in bench scoring to take a 48-42 lead going into halftime — surviving some foul trouble as well.
Of the 10 players Vogel used in the first half, seven had at least two fouls, and Hill had three.
But by then, Miami had a bigger problem to address.
The Heat announced during halftime that Bosh would not return because of a lower abdominal injury. Bosh shot 6 for 11 in the first half, the last three of his points coming with 1:06 remaining after a dunk while getting fouled by Hibbert. Bosh remained down for a few moments, then got up slowly and made his free throw.
While going back down to the defensive end, Bosh started limping and grabbing at his midsection. He eventually fell to his knees in pain, and was replaced by Ronny Turiaf with 43.6 seconds left. Bosh was grimacing as he headed to the Heat locker room for evaluation, as his wife covered an anguished look on her face while watching from courtside.
“It’s unfortunate Chris went down,” Wade said. “But we told him, ‘Be healthy. We got ’em.’ ”
Even with Bosh out, things started going Miami’s way in the third quarter. The Heat held the Pacers to 31 percent shooting in the period, and Anthony’s dunk off an assist from Wade tied the game heading to the fourth at 70-all. And the foul trouble compounded for Indiana early in the third, when Hill ran over Mario Chalmers with 8:26 left.
Hill was trying to get to the Pacers’ bench area to call timeout. Chalmers got in front of him near midcourt, held his ground and referee Scott Foster called Hill for the charge — his fifth foul, as Vogel argued otherwise. Vogel was fined $15,000 by the NBA on Saturday for comments he made last week about how he believes the Heat flop too much in efforts to get calls from referees.
“He was just manipulating the refereeing or trying to,” Stern said in a televised interview during the game. “I would have fined him much more than our office did. But I tell you what, I think it’s a legitimate concern. Some years ago, I told the competition committee that we were going to start fining people for flopping and then suspending. … It’s not a legitimate play in my judgment.”
Wade is appearing in his 18th playoff series with Miami, one more than Alonzo Mourning for the most in Heat franchise history. … The fans in Miami booed when a foul was given to George in the fourth quarter — his fifth — and not assessed to Hibbert. Had the foul been on Hibbert, it would have been his sixth personal. George fouled out about 2 minutes later. … It was Miami’s 13th straight postseason win at home against East opponents.