Crucial Game 5 decisions

Using numbers to break down key choices the Heat, Pacers had to make

Updated: May 29, 2014, 3:21 PM ET
By Kevin Pelton | ESPN Insider

LeBron James Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesLeBron James encountered uncharacteristic foul trouble in Wednesday's Game 5.

After a week where no playoff game was decided by fewer than nine points, the Eastern Conference finals delivered us a classic finish Wednesday night in Indianapolis, where the Indiana Pacers avoided elimination with a 93-90 Game 5 win over the Miami Heat.

With wild swings and a frantic finish, the game provided a number of crucial decisions for coaches and players on both sides. Let's break them down, using the numbers as our guide.

Decision: Erik Spoelstra plays LeBron James with four fouls

The four-time MVP spent much of the evening in foul trouble. Spoelstra was conservative with James in the first half, pulling him as soon as he picked up his second foul (in the first quarter) and third foul (shortly after returning at the start of the second quarter).

When James again drew a foul early in the third quarter, Spoelstra decided to let him stay on the court. The move made sense given how low James' foul rate has been historically. He averaged just 1.6 fouls per 36 minutes during the regular season, and even during the postseason, that's gone up to only 2.3 -- less than one per quarter. As Mike Breen noted on the ESPN broadcast, when James fouled out this season (in overtime at Brooklyn on Jan. 10), it was the first time he'd done so in nearly six years.