Post Up: Top Of The East
The Heat win Game 7 to advance to the NBA Finals for the third straight year.
Heat 99, Pacers 76 (Heat wins series 4-3)
LeBron James led the Miami Heat to their third straight NBA Finals in a complete blowout of the Indiana Pacers in Game 7 Monday night.
With smothering defense and meticulous offense, James held Paul George to merely 7 points while lead the game in scoring. Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade awakened from their funk and were active on double teams and contributed on offense.
Going into the game, DWade wanted a bigger role on offense. He delivered, scoring 21 points and pulling down 9 boards in his first 20-point outburst since the first round of the Playoffs. Bosh’s stat line didn’t spike like Wade’s (Bosh scored 9 points to go along with 8 rebounds), but his energy was clearly elevated on the offensive glass and on defensive rotations.
After the game, TNT’s Craig Sager asked Wade about the win, “It was about finding a way to win here at home,” said Wade. “Coach did some things and my teammates did some things to loosen me up early and I just kept going.”
At halftime, the Heat led the Pacers by 15 points—not a good sign for Indiana fans. Miami is 7-1 this year in the Playoffs when leading halfway through the game. James had already begun his scoring barrage putting up 18 on 5-9 shooting. The Pacers also struggled to take care of the ball early on, turning the ball over 15 times in the first half.
During the third quarter, things really began to unravel for the Pacers. With 1:48 left to go, Roy Hibbert picked up his fifth foul and Wade slashed to the basket to make it 72-53, giving the Heat their largest lead of the game. That would prove to be a fatal blow to Indiana’s confidence. Paul George would then foul out with 7:43 left to seal the win for the Heat. George left the court congratulating his teammates on a season well done, knowing it was the end.
Heading into the fourth quarter, Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra cited defense as the main factor in Miami leading the Pacers, “This is the first time we’ve been able to apply consistent defensive pressure.”
Roy Hibbert led the Pacers with 18 points and 8 rebounds. West was the second leading scorer with 14 and he also pulled down 6 boards. George Hill put up 13 points and dished out only a single assist. Lance Stephenson was the one orchestrating the offense with a team-high 5 assists, he also added 10 points in the losing effort.
LeBron James put up another legendary stat line, scoring a game-high 32 points, grabbing 8 boards, and dishing out 4 assists while shooting 8-17 from field and 15-16 from the free throw line. Ray Allen was also big off the bench, putting up 10 points on 3-5 shooting from long range.
Paul George ended the series badly in Miami, but he should walk to the visiting locker room with his head held high, knowing that he’s officially arrived on the scene. With his level of play throughout the Eastern Conference Finals, it’s safe to say that George will be around to battle LeBron for a while. George will become eligible for a contract extension this offseason, if nothing is agreed to, he would be a restricted free agent in the summer of 2014.
Miami will now look forward to defending their title against the San Antonio Spurs Thursday night. For the Spurs, they should try to emulate the game plan of Pacers head coach Frank Vogel’s book in using their size down low to pound the Heat in the paint. Indiana had the likes of Roy Hibbert and David West to battle with Chris Bosh, but San Antonio will have Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter.
San Antonio has aging veterans that play the game fundamentally, and have won consistently with this core group for the last decade. This just may be their last chance at another title.
Miami has the best player in the world, who just keeps getting better.—Daniel Friedman
Game 1 of the NBA Finals will be played Thursday night. Tip-off begins at 9:00 p.m. EST on ABC. Quotes from this article were pulled from NBA.com and NBA TV’s live stream of each team’s post game press conferences.