The Miami Heat are advancing to the NBA Finals for a 3rd straight season. All the talk surrounding the Heat prior to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals was negative. Chris Bosh’s time in Miami was going to end, LeBron James was going back to Cleveland to join Kyrie Irving, and Dwyane Wade’s NBA future looked bleak. That all changed as the Heat torched the Pacers winning 99-76 to reach the NBA Finals for a 3rd consecutive season.
Miami will face the well-rested San Antonio Spurs who will have had 10 days rest going into Thursday’s Game 1.
The one thing the Pacers couldn’t let happen was allow the Heat to go on a run. Miami did more than go on a run, they sprinted. Indiana led 12-6 early in the first, but that was the Pacers biggest lead of the game. A Roy Hibbert jump shot gave the Pacers a 23-19 lead to open the 2nd quarter. It was all down hill from there. The Heat finished the half on a 33-14 run and took a 15-point lead into the break.
Frank Vogel gambled, and lost. Vogel took Hibbert and Paul George out at the 8:59 mark of the 2nd quarter to give his key players rest with Indiana down by 3. When they came back 3 minutes later, the deficit for Indiana was 10 and the Pacers never recovered.
The 2 areas Indiana owned throughout the series were the paint and the glass. The Heat outrebounded the Pacers for the first time in the Eastern Conference Finals 43-36 and tied them in points in the paint with 30. That, combined with 21 Pacer turnovers was a recipe for disaster.
LeBron James had another typical game scoring 32 points, but the story was the play of Dwyane Wade who recorded his first 20-point game since Game 2 of the first round against the Bucks. That was 12 games ago. Wade had 21 points on 7/16 shooting and brought down 9 rebounds, a game high.
Chris Bosh wasn’t great, but easily played his best game of the series with 9 points and 8 rebounds. Bosh attacked Hibbert in this one, something he was hesitant to do previously.
Ray Allen was another Heat player who came alive in Game 7. Allen keyed Miami’s 2nd quarter run scoring 10 points and was 3/5 from 3. The only negative, if you can call it that, was Chris Anderson’s streak of 18 consecutive shots ended with a missed put back attempt in the first half. Anderson shot an abysmal 33 percent from the field (He was 1/3, but that’s a far cry from his 100% field goal percentage in the first 5 games. Anderson missed game 6 for shoving Tyler Hansbrough in Game 5).
Paul George came up small when it mattered the most. George was just 2/9 for 7 points and fouled out with 8 minutes to go in the game. Roy Hibbert was good, but not great scoring 18 points and grabbing 8 rebounds. He was in foul trouble throughout and was never able to get into a rhythm. David West had 14 points and 6 rebounds, but committed a game high 6 turnovers. George Hill’s shooting struggles came back. Hill was 4/14 from the field for 13 points. Lance Stephenson scored 10 points. No other Pacer was in double figures.
The Pacers season is now over, but the future of the team is bright. The only area that isn’t clear is assistant coach Brian Show likely taking a head coaching position. The Nets have been a rumored destination. Other than that, Indiana has witnessed the emergence of Paul George’s super stardom, and Roy Hibbert establishing himself as a dominant big man. Lance Stephenson needs to be more consistent, but Indiana should be excited about his development. The Pacers look like a team that’s going to be a force in the Eastern Conference for years to come.
The Heat are back to being where everyone expected them to be, in the NBA Finals, though the road was much tougher than most expected. It was hard to imagine before the series that there would be a possibility of a “Big 3” breakup, but that’s exactly what happened.
The Heat’s Finals matchup with San Antonio will be very interesting. The Heat won the season series 2-0. LeBron James faced the Spurs in the 2007 Finals with Cleveland and was swept.
The key for the Heat will be the play of Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh who can’t be worse than they were in this series. Hopefully for the Heat, Wade can build on his Game 7 momentum. For Chris Bosh, Roy Hibbert made his life miserable, and he should have a much easier time going up against Tiago Splitter and Tim Duncan.