LeBron's message awakens Heat to win

The Heat rolled to a 97-94 win against Indiana after LeBron barked

Heat forward scores 24 points to help beat the Pacers at home

MIAMI – Midway through the third quarter, with the Heat's night sinking, guard Mario Chalmers said something in a time-out huddle and LeBron James jumped from his seat.

He barked in Chalmers' face. He had to be pulled back by Udonis Haslem. The huddle snapped to attention. The night came into focus.

The message was clear: Wake up.

And the Heat's 97-94 win was a night about messages, right? That's all everyone said in the build-up to Wednesday night's game.

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Indiana would have sent a message about how they're coming hard this year with the second win in a week. The Heat would send a message about how they're just fine with a win.

But the loudest message, the one that actually resonated on Wednesday night, came in that time-out huddle and carried the authority of the best player in the game after the a missed defensive assignment left Indiana's Paul George with an open 3-point shot.

It was an "explosive conversation,'' as Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. "But it's December 18th, and it's been quite a while since we've had that kind of communication.

"That was good. That felt like the Miami Heat."

This was equally like the Heat: LeBron, the leader, backing it up as LeBron, the superstar. Suddenly, after an evening of stumbling, the Heat were alive again, with LeBron at the front of the charge.

He shot. He passed. He defended. He decided just before the game to play on a sprained ankle. Now, near the end of the third quarter, with the Heat back in the game, he picked up a loose ball and dunked, and brought AmericanAirlines Arena back to life.

It wasn't just a game again. It was a ride. Dwyane Wade had 32 points, looking healthy and feisty. LeBron had 24. Bosh had 15 points and eight rebounds. And they needed them all.

By the final minutes, when Chris Bosh and Ray Allen hit consecutive 3-point shots to give the Heat a 95-92 lead, even Heat president Pat Riley showed rare, regular-season emotion by standing up and clapping.

Three-point shooting had been a problem this year against Indiana. The Heat shot a season-low four-of-21 last week in the loss at Indiana. They were only three-of-19 until those final shots by Bosh and Allen.

That's 17.5 percent for one of the best 3-point teams in the league.

"That took a lot of guts for (Bosh), that first one, because he'd missed a couple similar to that one,'' Spoelstra said.

That's what kind of a night this was. One step back. Two steps forward. And a great reminder of how this team can change gears when it wants to do so.

It doesn't change the big-picture significance, as these two teams will be in a too-close-to-call death match come May. But it might change where that final game is played.

If Indiana had won Wednesday, and taken a 2-0 regular-season lead against the Heat, it had good headway toward a home-court advantage. It also had increased confidence, which is what any team chasing the champ needs.

In many ways, this was like all the old storylines picked right back up. Shane Battier and Indiana's David West looked like such a pro-wrestling match you waited for the eye-gouging.

Indiana's Lance Stephenson started a pushing match in the second quarter because, well, that's what he does.

"About halfway through the first quarter, nothing was going to the game plan as far as how we played,'' Spoelstra said.