Basketball: Sparkling offensive performance lifts Heat in 114-96 victory over Pacers

INDIANAPOLIS (AFP) - Defending NBA champions Miami bounced back with a vengeance on Sunday, racing to an early lead and rolling to a 114-96 victory over the Indiana Pacers in Game Three of the Eastern Conference finals.

The Heat, stung by a Game-Two defeat on their home floor last Friday, struck back to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.

The winners will advance to the NBA Finals to take on either the San Antonio Spurs or the Memphis Grizzlies for the Larry O'Brien trophy.

NBA Most Valuable Player LeBron James led the Heat with 22 points. He scored 18 in the first half as Miami, connecting on 63 per cent of their shots from the floor in the half, jumped to a 70-56 lead at the break.

The Heat eventually shot 54.5 per cent for the game, connecting on 42-of-77 shots in an impressive offensive performance against the league's best defensive team.

"What we talked about in the locker room was a team win," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "We just tried to focus on the task of playing one possession at a time and trying to play those possessions well.

"We had a lot of contributions tonight so it was a good step forward, but we know how competitive this series is. We already have to start putting this behind us and start getting ready for the next challenge, the next battle."

All five Miami starters scored in double figures. Dwyane Wade added 18 and eight assists and Udonis Haslem, who had scored just three points in the first two games of the series, added 17 and seven rebounds.

Chris Bosh scored 15 and Mario Chalmers poured in 14 as the Heat remained unbeaten on the road in this post-season and handed the Pacers their first home defeat of this play-off campaign.

"Obviously they're one of the great teams that this league has seen, the defending champs," said Pacers coach Frank Vogel. "If you're not perfect guarding them, they'll do what they did to us tonight.

"We didn't have a great defensive night. You have to credit Miami for playing a great basketball game."