MIAMI — Before the second half, with Heat fans on edge, LeBron James leaned into his teammates' huddle and smacked his fist loudly and repeatedly into his open hand. He yelled. He smacked his fist. The message was clear: Wake up.
Suddenly, after another half of sleepwalking in a series full of them, the Heat woke up, though that's collectively overstating it. LeBron woke them up. He picked them up. He put them on his shoulders and carried them to a 90-79 victory in Game 5.
He hit seven shots in the third quarter. He had four assists and four rebounds. He accounted for 25 of the Heat's 30 points, between points and assists. And when it was over, when the Heat went from four points down to 13 points ahead, the quarter's scoreboard read like this:
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LeBron 16 points, Pacers 13 points.
"I kind of just went back to my Cleveland days at that point," LeBron said. "I was just in attack mode in the third quarter."
"That's LeBron showing his greatness, and making it look easy,'' Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "His engine in that third quarter was incredible."
LeBron went to the bench at the start of the fourth quarter. The Heat's lead immediately shrunk to eight points. Back came LeBron. Back went the Heat lead to 13 points and the night was done.
"That look I saw tonight from him was that same look he had in Boston last year when our backs were against the wall," said Udonis Haslem, referring to Game 6's survival game at Boston. "And when he has that look, all you have to do is keep up with him.
"It's a look that says I'm not going to quit, and I'm going to do whatever it takes to put us in position to win the game."
This was what you get with LeBron. You get the points. You get the magic. On Thursday night, you got the anger, too, as he'd stewed in emotion for the previous two days and then a sloppy first half.
He had been called out by Indiana's Lance Stephenson in Game 4, fouled out by referees, fined by the league for flopping and, on top of that, lost the game to have a series go up for grabs.
This was a night steaming with consequence. An hour before tip-off, LeBron was in no mood for conversation, much less conversation about the $5,000 fine he received for flopping in Game 4.
"Did I earn it?" he said in repeating a question. "Come on, man. Next question."
Edge? Anger? Emotion? He was full of it. He yelled at Stephenson after scoring on him. He went nodding to midcourt after hitting a 3-point shot.
Was there any way to stop him?
"I don't know," Indiana coach Frank Vogel said. "He was pretty special tonight, no doubt about it."
Oh, let's give some credit elsewhere. It wasn't just LeBron. Haslem repeated his Game 3 imitation. He made 8 of 9 shots that game. What did Vogel say then?
"Is he going to shoot 8 of 9 every night?" he asked. "I don't know."
Now he knows. Now we all do, really. Haslem's first shot went off the side of the backboard. He made his next eight shots.
The emotion of the night was there, too. In the second quarter, the emotion exposed itself in another way. Chris "Birdman" Andersen and Indiana's Tyler Hansbrough got tangled up. They bumped chests.
Birdman two-hand shoved Hansbrough, and was lucky to get out of it with just a flagrant foul (it'll be reviewed on the off day, folks). Later, Mario Chalmers and Haslem got in a shouting match with Indiana's David West.
Still, this was LeBron's night, his magic, his game. When he plays like this, the Heat look unbeatable. Maybe it's just that he does.
This has been the style of series everyone forecast. The Heat want beauty. The Pacers want beast. And each has had their moments of imposing that style on the other. The surprise is the Pacers have been more effective with theirs.
So it's off to Indiana with a series on the line. The Heat hasn't lost consecutive games since January. That's what Indiana will have to do now to take the series.
The way LeBron played Thursday, they'll have to take it from him twice, too.