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(Monday, June 3rd)
Final Score: Miami 99, Indiana 76
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 stripe.
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 second half.
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, for Indiana.
06/04 01:53:44 ET