INDIANAPOLIS — And then LeBron James fouled out.
This was new. This was unexpected in the final minute. This summed up how strange this strange end to Game 4 went for the Heat when LeBron made the long way to the bench with 56 seconds left for the first time in nearly a year.
And then Dwyane Wade traveled.
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That was new, too. That was unexpected, too. And that call with 26 seconds left, also summed up how this final minute — how these final five minutes, really — went for the Heat. They scored three points in that final five-minute stretch.
Three. That's it. That's how the Heat lost a three-point lead with five minutes left. That's how they lost an iron grip on this series, as it evened up at two games apiece in Indiana's 99-92 win.
"It was like this series, great play after great play after great play,'' Indiana coach Frank Vogel said.
Maybe for Indiana it was like that. Down its stretch, Lance Stephenson hit a couple of big shots and Roy Hibbert had three of Indiana's game-tilting six offensive rebounds to pace its comeback in the last minutes.
But the Heat? There's no room to complain about the refs when you're out-rebounded by 19, play like it did in the final minutes and got 23 combined points from Wade and Chris Bosh.
Then there was that final minute. LeBron and Wade. Wade and LeBron. You've come to expect them to decide games for the Heat, especially with basketball heroics in the final minutes, typically for the better.
Not this time. Not this night. And while LeBron's was a fickle whistle, the kind of incidental offensive contact in setting a pick on Lance Stephenson that's usually let go, it wasn't let go this time.
He had five fouls already, which was unusual enough. This was just the second time in 128 playoff games he fouled out.
"They've got so many great players out there without him, we didn't let up,'' said Indiana center Roy Hibbert, who had 23 points and 12 rebounds.
The Heat trailed, 96-92 at that point. There were 56 seconds left. They held on defense and, the next time down, it was Wade stopping at the 3-point line, moving forward, hopping back. Tweet!
Somewhere in there he traveled. Pacers' ball again. Pacers' game, too. The Heat closed the final five minutes by shooting 1 of 9 with two turnovers. LeBron made the only shot in that stretch, a 3-pointer, that pulled them within 94-92.
There remains a long way still to go, so much left between the Heat and the Pacers, so much basketball and hardball to be played. But if this becomes something it shouldn't for the Heat, they'll remember this night.
They'll remember how they came out playing like the tip-off was 10 minutes after it actually was and trailed 11-0. They'll remember how they had the Pacers wobbling on their home court in the third quarter and could not put them away.
You saw the risk of a long series in the third quarter. First, Chris Bosh got in a wrestling match with 7-foot-2 Hibbert for position on the low post, got bent one way and twisted his ankle.
Bosh went out of the game, into the locker room for a while. And, as he was lost to the game for a while, LeBron twisted his ankle in a collision. He came up limping. He re-laced his shoes.
LeBron, who finished with 24 points, stayed in the game. Bosh returned. But on less-fortunate days those are the types of twists seasons turn on. That's why you end a series when you can, as soon as you can.
At some point, the Pacers' youth and the Heat's depth had to take hold in this series. If it wasn't obvious in Game 3 when Udonis Haslem made 8 of 9 shots, it was Tuesday night when Mario Chalmers scored 20 points … and Paul George disappeared for the second straight game.
It happens to young players. It kept happening, too. When George made a bad pass to give up a Wade-led fast break, he doubled the problem by goal-tending as Wade was fouled.
"He's a flopper!" the Indiana fans chanted again at Wade, as they did to whichever Heat player shot a foul shot to back Vogel's charge from last year.
For all the numbers thrown out of Game 4, the most interesting one might be 62 days. That's the last time the Heat lost on the road. It was in Chicago on March 27 that ended the Heat's 27-game win streak and, well, began a different one.
Already, San Antonio is waiting for a dance partner. It will be a long wait until the Finals' June 6 start. So they'll be rested, ready, maybe a bit rusty and certainly rarin' to go with a lineup of proven champs.
The Heat should join them. But it won't be Thursday in Game 5. Tuesday told us that much. This series goes on. Five dismal Heat minutes at the end decided that much.