Paul George hit a three-pointer with 0.7 seconds remaining to force overtime, then made three free throws with 2.2 seconds left in the extra session to give Indiana a 102-101 lead. James took the ensuing inbounds pass after a timeout and drove by George for the winning basket.
"Everything that we did to battle back to that point, just felt like everything was in our favor," George said after the game. "When that three went down and, obviously, when I got fouled at the three-point line, us being in position to win that game, you feel confident about we were going to be able to take care of business. I slipped up. Just slipped up at the end.
"You gotta make him shoot a jumper. That's what we wanted. We wanted LeBron to shoot a jumper right there."
"I grabbed (George) after the game and told him to quickly forget about the last play. He's a third-year player and he's playing the best player in the world, someone that's going to go down as arguably one of the best players in the history of the game. He's playing him toe-to-toe and just competing his tail off and doing a great job. Very proud of his whole effort," said Pacers head coach Frank Vogel.
Pacers center Roy Hibbert was on the bench during the final sequence, which Vogel attributed to Miami center Chris Bosh.
"We expected it to go to LeBron, but we expected Bosh to be a spacing option. If Roy were in the game, (Bosh) probably would have been, you know, first or second option," Vogel said. "It's the dilemma they present. Obviously, with the way it worked out, it would have better to have Roy in the game, but you don't know. If that happens, maybe Bosh is making a jump shot and we're all talking about that."
George tied the game at 92-92 with a deep three-pointer at the end of regulation, seconds after Miami's Ray Allen split a pair of free throws. Allen's desperation shot from the corner was no good as regulation ended.
James led all scorers with 30 points and added 10 rebounds and 10 assists. George had 27 points for the Pacers, followed by 26 from David West. Lance Stephenson grabbed 12 rebounds for Indiana.
"It was a terrific basketball game," Vogel said. "Two great teams just throwing punch for punch and our spirit is very high and very confident. We know we can play with this team, we've got to play better. We can't have 20 turnovers and give up 24 second-chance points and miss eight free throws. You've got to play a near-perfect game to beat this team."
Game 2 is Friday night in Miami, with the series shifting to Indianapolis on Game 3 Sunday night.
Eric Yutzy will have highlights and reaction from Miami on Eyewitness News Sunrise starting at 4:30 a.m.