Miami, FL (Sports Network) - The Miami Heat were tested throughout their
Eastern Conference final series, but with the season and their reputation both
on the line in a decisive Game 7, they rose to the occasion.
LeBron James scored a game-high 32 points and Dwyane Wade easily had his best
game of the postseason as the defending champion Heat routed the Indiana
Pacers, 99-76, to earn their third straight trip to the NBA Finals.
The top-seeded Heat had their backs against the wall after the team dropped
Game 6 and saw the supporting cast struggle mightily, especially two-thirds of
the "Big Three" as Wade and Chris Bosh combined for 15 points.
However, the duo came to play on Monday. Wade poured in a personal series-best
21 points and grabbed nine boards, and while Bosh struggled to shoot 3-for-13,
he was a force in the paint in grabbing eight rebounds, blocking three shots
and recording two steals.
"We've had more games where everyone is clicking than not so," said James. "In
this series, guys just weren't in a rhythym, not feeling like themselves, but
hey, you save it to the last game and it allows us to advance."
James attacked the rim all night and finished 15-for-16 from the free throw
line, and as a team Miami converted 33 of its 38 attempts from the charity
Indiana never got into rhythm offensively, was forced into 21
turnovers and received very little out of its two top scorers.
"They know how to ratch up their defense at a level that just imposes their
will on a basketball game," said Indiana coach Frank Vogel.
Paul George fouled out early in the fourth quarter and was just 2-for-9 with
seven points for the game. Roy Hibbert scored 14 of his 18 points in the
second half, but by then the contest was far out of reach.
In order for Miami to capture its second straight title, it will have to get
through the San Antonio Spurs. The series begins Thursday down in South Beach.
The Pacers had some early success and held a 21-19 lead after the first, but
turnovers quickly caught up with them and it all began to spin out of control.
The Heat, meanwhile, began to fire on all cylinders while playing phenomenal
defense inside and out.
Ray Allen, who shot a combined 13-for-46 through the first six games of this
series, buried his first three 3-pointers, with his second opening the flood
gates to an 11-2 run.
Bosh missed seven of his first eight attempts, but knocked down two long
jumpers in a row to cap the surge and his 3-pointer created a 39-29 edge for
Miami midway through the second.
Hardly anything went right for Indiana in the quarter, getting outscored by a
33-16 count, and struggled mightily offensively the entire half as they
entered the locker room behind by 15 points.
The Pacers had more turnovers (15) than made field goals (13) through the
first two quarters and the Heat took 15 more shots than them. Miami got the
most of its offensive possessions as well, registering 20 points in the paint
and 10 second chance points.
Top weapons George and Hibbert were all but neutralized. George had just five
points on 1-of-6 shooting and Hibbert got off only two shots while constantly
receiving double-teams. He had just three rebounds and committed three fouls.
Things never got better for the Pacers, trailing by double digits the entire
James, who scored 18 in the half, tacked on to his total with a 3-pointer just
over three minutes into the third. A revitalized Wade showed aggression, and
with 5:24 left in the period, followed his own miss to draw a foul and knock
down a short jumper off the glass. He buried the bonus shot and shortly after
the Heat were in command with 66-49 edge.
Miami's lead grew to 21 points by the end of the quarter and ballooned to as
many as 28 before the final buzzer.
With frustrations mounting, Indiana's Jeff Pendergraph shoved a screening
Norris Cole and the two were ejected after they looked ready to square off
with 2:17 left.
Home teams are 90-23 in Game 7s and 17-2 in conference final situations since
the league went to its current playoff format in 1984 ... The Heat have not
lost back-to-back games in nearly five months, with the last occurrence
happening between Jan. 8-10 ... The last road team to win a conference final
Game 7 was the 2005 Detroit Pistons, when they ousted the Heat on their home
floor ... David West and George Hill scored 14 and 13 points, respectively,
The Sports Network