LeBron James (with an assist from Frank Vogel) is why the scoreboard doesn’t say Pacers 102-101. (Allen Eyestone / AP)

LeBron James won Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals Wednesday night and Frank Vogel lost it.

With the Heat trailing 102-101 with 2.2 seconds left in overtime, James took an inbounds pass and drove to the basket — through wide-open, undefended paint — for a 103-102 victory over the Indiana Pacers. And just why was James, who was putting on a regal performance with a triple-double, so wide open? Because Vogel, in a gobsmackingly baffling move, had Roy Hibbert on the bench out of what he said was a concern for what Chris Bosh might do.

Paging Roy Hibbert. Paging Roy Hibbert. (Mike Ehrmann / Getty Images)

Vogel had made the same decision about Hibbert just a few moments before, to a similarly poor result and yet he did it again. Still, he had his reasons.

“That’s the dilemma they present when they have Chris Bosh at the five spot,” he said afterward. “We put a switching lineup in with the intent to switch and keep everything in front of us. We pushed up a little too much and LeBron was able to beat us off the bounce. … We expected it to go to LeBron. We expected Bosh to be a spacing option.”

James was nonchalant about the shot

“I mean, I made a layup,” he said. “It’s not like I made something from half court. I made a layup. I’ve been doing that since I was 8 years old.”

Hibbert, who sat on the bench shaking his head at a replay of James’s basket, promised to be more assertive when that next time arrives.

“I think as I get older, I may have to [ask to stay in],” Hibbert said. “I didn’t, and in hindsight I wish I did because LeBron’s layup was one I think I could’ve [blocked], because he served it up.”

Instead, everyone in American Airlines Arena — especially the guys in the yellow jerseys — just watched.

“I trust coach’s judgment,” Hibbert said. “Somebody should’ve been there to contest the shot, you can’t let the best player in the league roll to the basket.”

Said Vogel: “I would say we’ll probably have him in next time.”

Next time, if Hibbert’s in, James might dish to Bosh. But that wasn’t how it went down Wednesday night.

“I knew I had time,” James said. “Coach [Erik Spoelstra] drew up a good play. I told myself I was going to attack. I had two-plus seconds to get to the rim and I was able to convert the last one.”


James finished with 30 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, becoming only the third player a triple-double in a one-point victory, the Elias Sports Bureau notes. (The other two: Walt Frazier of the New York Knicks in 1970 and Rajon Rondon of the Boston Celtics in May 2012.) And as for that last shot?

“I peeked over my left shoulder, Paul George was a little bit out of place, so I just took off,” James said. ”I knew I got the ball up on the backboard with enough time. It was a great game for us. Two teams fought hard and we were able to make one more play than they made.”

As good as he was, that may be the real takeaway here. The Heat are in for a playoff fight before another Summer of LeBron can begin. Game 2 is Friday night.

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