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It all comes down to this
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - In a league full of giants, Roy Hibbert stands the tallest.

At 7-foot-2 and almost 300 pounds, Hibbert truly is a basketball Goliath. Tonight, he'll have to be more like David.

The Indiana Pacers have a chance to shock the basketball world Monday in South Beach. Nobody could have envisioned this when the series began two weeks ago.

Miami entered the Eastern Conference Finals having won 45 of its last 48 games. Now the Heat are on the brink of elimination.

Think I'm being dramatic? Think again. Tonight's Game 7 is more enormous than you could even imagine.

Here is what's at stake:

1. LeBron's legacy: Let's do a quick inventory. In ten seasons, LeBron James has earned nine All-Star nods, four MVP awards, two All-Star Game MVP's, a Rookie of the Year award, five All-Defensive First Team selections and (wait for it) just one championship.

One title is better than zero, but it still leaves LeBron way behind Michael Jordan, the player he's most often compared to.

Miami's mindset has been the same all season: championship or bust. If the Heat fall short of the title, it probably won't ruin LeBron's legacy. But it won't help.

2. Our perception of Roy Hibbert: Hibbert has manhandled the Heat in the low post, averaging 22.8 points and 10.8 rebounds in the series. He's a matchup nightmare and arguably Indiana's biggest weapon heading into Game 7.

But he's also a bit of a loose cannon. He was suspended earlier in the year for a fight against Golden State, and his racy comments after Game 6 have had people scratching their heads.

If Hibbert can lead the Pacers to victory, all will be forgiven. If not, the critics will probably remember his immaturity instead of the dominance he displayed on the court.

3. The Big 3's future in Miami: James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh promised Miami fans eight titles when they signed or re-signed with the Heat in the summer of 2010. That was always a pretty lofty projection, but now some are wondering ... will they even make it to two?

While LeBron continues to get better each season, the opposite is happening with Wade and Bosh. Both players have been borderline pitiful against the Pacers this series (14.5 ppg for Wade, 11.3 for Bosh).

LeBron doesn't have time for Wade and Bosh to go through the motions. Remember, he can opt out of his contract at the end of next season.

If Dwight Howard signs with Houston instead of Los Angeles (and my feeling is that he will), the Lakers will have all kinds of money to spend in 2014, which is also the year Kobe Bryant plans to retire.

Makes a little too much sense, doesn't it?

4. Our respect for the referees: For the guys in zebra outfits, the Eastern Conference Finals has been a comedy of errors.

Let's start with the Chris Andersen incident. Giving him a flagrant 2 foul for his Game 5 push of Indiana's Tyler Hansbrough retroactively wasn't good enough. Andersen should have been kicked out of the game immediately. And giving Hansbrough a technical for basically just standing there and getting attacked makes no sense. That should have been rescinded.

The offensive foul James was whistled for at the end of Game 4 didn't receive as much criticism as the Birdman mishap, but I still wasn't a fan of it. The refs need a flawless Game 7 to restore some of their dignity.

5. Everybody's sanity: Can you imagine the Twitter backlash that would take place if the Heat lost tonight? It might send us back to the stone age.

SportsCenter would show nothing else for the next two weeks. It would grace the cover of every sports section and every sports magazine in the country. And even that wouldn't be enough.

A Pacers' win would be the upset to end all upsets. Even George Mason and Wichita State would have to be impressed by it.

6. Paul George's place among the greats: The Indiana forward has been nothing short of magnificent this postseason (19.9 ppg, 9.5 rpg and 5.0 apg). He's as versatile a talent as you'll find in the NBA.

Beating the Knicks in six games is one thing. Knocking off the defending champs is quite another.

Some people are already calling George a superstar. If George beats the Heat in Game 7, EVERYONE will be calling him a superstar.

7. A whole lot of history: In 112 NBA Game 7's, the road team has won just 20.5 percent of the time. Away teams have fared a little better over the last six seasons (26.7 percent success rate), but the odds still aren't in Indiana's favor.

If Indiana can pull it off, they'll be the highest seed to come out of the Eastern Conference since the Celtics won the East as a No. 4 seed in 2010. At 39, Pacers head coach Frank Vogel would be the youngest coach to make it to the NBA Finals since 37-year-old Mike Brown did so with Cleveland in 2007.

The Pacers have never won an NBA title. The only other time they've been to the Finals was in 2000. That year they lost to the Lakers in six games.

A Heat victory would mean a third straight trip to the NBA Finals. Since 2000, only two other teams have accomplished that feat (Lakers in 2000-02 and again from 2008-10). If the Heat fall short, they'll become just the fourth 66-win team to not win the title.

8. The title: Tonight will decide much more than who gets to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals. In all likelihood, it will decide who wins the championship.

The Heat have a lot to be confident about if they win Game 7. Miami has won five straight against San Antonio.

Meanwhile, the Pacers have just one victory in their last five meetings with the Spurs.

Will David slay Goliath? It's time to find out.




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Jesse Pantuosco at jpantuosco@sportsnetwork.com.

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