by Marcel Mutoni @ marcel_mutoni

Despite all of the hype and buildup heading into Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the battle turned out to be a dud.

The Miami Heat were never seriously challenged, as they sent the Indiana Pacers home for the summer, blowing them out 99-76.

LeBron James was the catalyst as usual (32 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists), and after imploring his teammates to step up, they rose to the challenge. Dwyane Wade (21 points, 9 rebounds) and Ray Allen (10 points off the bench) helped James deliver the final blow.

Per the AP:

“They’re just an amazing group of guys,” Heat managing general partner Micky Arison said after handing the East trophy to Chris Andersen. “They’ve given us an incredible season so far, but it’s a long way from over.” It could have ended on Monday, of course. The Heat had alternated wins and losses with the Pacers in the first six games of the series, and were coming off their worst offensive outing of the year in Game 6. They responded with a rout, despite shooting just under 40 percent, well below their norm. “By any means necessary … we took care of business,” James said.

Miami led by as many as 28 points, a shocking amount for a series that had an aggregate score of Heat 569, Pacers 564 entering Monday night. The Heat actually trailed by six in the early going, were still down 21-19 after the first quarter and it was starting to look like it was starting to look like one of those down-to-the-wire nights. Not even close. “You never want to take anything for granted,” Wade said. “Being here three straight years in a row, going back to the finals, is an amazing feat. I’m just glad we were able to do it. Everything that happened in the first six games didn’t mean anything to us. It was about tonight. It was about Game 7. It was about finding a way to win here at home.”

Now, it’s on to the NBA Finals, where the San Antonio Spurs are well rested and patiently waiting.

Back in 2007, after the Spurs had swept the Cleveland Cavaliers for the title, Tim Duncan prophetically told LeBron James that it was only a matter of time until the League would be his. James says he’s now a vastly better player:

“I’m a much better player,” James said Monday, thinking back to the last time he saw the Spurs. “I’m 20, 40, 50 times better than I was in ’07.”

Duncan and the Spurs will find out just how true this is, starting on Thursday night.