INDIANAPOLIS, May 15 (Ticker) -- Jeff Foster
practically was perfect,
helping the Indiana Pacers remain perfect at home.
In the best game of his career, the forgotten Foster had playoff
career highs of 20 points and 16 rebounds to power the Pacers
to a 94-83 victory over the Miami Heat and a 3-2 lead in their
Eastern Conference semifinal series.
Sharing a frontcourt with All-Star forwards Jermaine O'Neal
, Foster often is overlooked. He assumed the starting
center spot from Scot Pollard
early in the season and averaged
6.1 points and 7.4 rebounds, playing all 82 games.
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Reggie Miller's Pacers are one game from running past the Heat.
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The four-year veteran had been very quiet in this series,
scoring just 11 points on 3-of-8 shooting. He was left alone on
the offensive end and made the Heat pay, making his first nine
shots and drawing chants of his name from the sellout crowd of
18,345 at Conseco Fieldhouse.
"They probably had to figure out what to say," Foster joked. "I
was smiling; it was very special."
"Jeff Foster was just outstanding," O'Neal said. "I tell him at
practice every day that he has not tapped into his true
Foster also dominated the paint, helping Indiana to a 47-30
advantage in rebounds. He particularly was effective on the
offensive end, pulling down seven that helped the Pacers to a
20-4 edge in second-chance points.
"Our board work was much better, as we all crashed the boards to
get a rebounding edge," Foster said.
"It's not like we didn't know he was a great rebounder. We
did," Heat center Brian Grant
said. "Tonight, he just showed
great effort on the offensive glass and at being in the right
place at the right time. ... He's the reason they won."
O'Neal had 22 points and eight rebounds and Artest scored 14
points for Indiana, which continued its dominance at Conseco
Fieldhouse after losing twice in Miami.
The Pacers have not lost at home since March 19. In the
postseason, they have been even more dominant, winning all five
games by double digits.
"Our crowd has been electric all series and it was like they
were waiting for something to happen," Pacers guard Reggie Miller
said. "Our energy level was 10 times greater tonight
than in Games 3 and 4."
While Indiana has been perfect at home, Miami has been perfectly
awful on the road. The Heat fell to 0-6 away from home in the
postseason, scoring no more than 85 points.
"We looked totally unprepared tonight," Heat coach Stan VanGundy
said. "After a game like this, the coach has to take the
blame for not having the team ready. I take the blame for this
Game 6 is Tuesday at Miami, where the Heat have won 18
straight games, including six in the postseason.
A seesaw first half saw Miami grab its initial first-quarter
lead of the series at 21-19; go cold and fall behind, 30-25,
midway through the second period; surge back to take a 33-32
lead; and surrender eight straight points, leading to a 44-39
Foster, who scored 10 points in the first half, really came
alive during the pivotal third quarter. He had a layup, dunk
and tip-in during a 12-4 burst that widened the lead to 58-45
with 6:36 to go.
"Here's a guy who they haven't looked to go to all series, he's
been open in that position several times, and tonight they get
him the ball and he finishes," Grant said. "That says a lot
about Jeff Foster and his professionalism. He was definitely
the difference out there tonight."
Foster closed the quarter with another layup, making it 73-55.
In addition to his offensive explosion, Foster also did a solid
job on Heat forward Lamar Odom
, limiting him to 14 points on
"One of the biggest impacts was our ability to keep Odom under
control," Foster said. Rookie Dwyane Wade
scored 16 points and
added 15 for Miami.