The Big 3 was reduced to the Big 1 during Miami's Game 5 victory over Indiana on Thursday, when LeBron James scored 16 of his game-high 30 points in the third quarter to power the Heat to a 90-79 victory.
"I kind of just went back to my Cleveland days at that point," James said. "Let's try to make more plays and be more of a scoring threat as well, and just try to figure out a way that I can ‑‑ I don't know, just see if the guys would just follow me, and just lead them the best way I could. I was just in attack mode in the third quarter, look for my shot. And luckily I was able to make some."
The 2013 MVP played all 12 minutes of the third quarter, shooting seven-for-10 from the field, knocking down two threes, grabbing four rebounds and dishing four assists to turn a four-point halftime deficit into a 13-point lead at the end of the quarter. James single-handedly outscored the Pacers 16-13 in the period.
"That's LeBron showing his greatness and making it look easy," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "His engine in that third quarter was incredible. He was tireless. He was making plays on both ends of the court, rebounding, covering so much ground defensively, and then making virtually every play for us offensively."
James added eight rebounds, six assists, two steals and a block to go with his 30 points. The performance went a long way to erasing the memory of a rare foul-out in a Game 4 loss on Tuesday and helped cover up a 10-point, six-rebound night from Dwyane Wade and a seven-point, five-rebound effort from Chris Bosh.
"He was pretty special tonight," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. "There's no question about it. This whole team is special. They're one of the best teams this league has ever seen."
By taking Game 5, Miami avoided the tenuous situation that faced them in the 2012 Eastern Conference finals against the Celtics. Last year, Miami dropped Game 4 and Game 5 to Boston, needing a superhuman effort from James in Game 6 before the Big 3 hit on all cylinders in a Game 7 victory.
Heat forward Udonis Haslem said that James' third-quarter effort reminded him of James' 45-point explosion against the Celtics last year.
"When you think he can't get any better, when he can't do anything else, he comes back and starts the new season bringing something else to his game," Haslem said. "We know every night we can depend on him. It's our job to just try to keep up with him. ... That look I saw tonight is the same look I saw last year in Boston when our backs were against the wall. Once he has that look, like I said, we have to keep up with him."
"It's just a look," Haslem explained. "It's not an expression, it's not a smile, it's not a frown, it's not a grimace. It's just a look of determination. It's a look that says that, you know, I'm not going to quit. And it's a look that says I'm going to do whatever it takes to put us in a position to win the game."
Should Miami win Game 6, set for Indianapolis on Saturday, they would face San Antonio in the Finals. "As one of the leaders on the team, I just tried to do whatever it takes to try help those guys to try to follow me and lead them to the right place," James said. "I came here... to be able to compete for a championship each and every year. We are one step away from doing it once again."