The Miami Heat are advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals after a 105-93 victory to close out the Indiana Pacers. Dwyane Wade’s 41 points on 17-25 shooting finished off a crazy 3-game stretch that saw him score 99 points after he was challenged after a putrid Game 3 in Indiana. Wade used an almost-absurd array of contested lay-ups, floaters, and jump shots to score 20 points in the 2nd quarter, and key the Heat after a slow start.
Indiana started the game with 10-2 lead, using an early 4-for-4 start from David West to establish a comfortable early lead. It was impressive to see Frank Vogel design offensive looks to isolate West on the much-smaller Shane Battier, and the Pacers looked poised to extend the series. One of the key sequences in the game, however, saw Miami go on a 10-0 run spanning the end of the 1st quarter and the beginning of the second, bookended by two Mike Miller three-pointers.
At the half, Indiana maintained a 2-point lead, but the 3rd quarter ended up being the decisive period. Miami outscored Indiana 28-16 in the period, and the Heat closed the 3rd quarter with a 9-0 run to take a 10-point lead into the 4th period. Indiana failed to make a big-time run in the 4th quarter thanks to run-stopping plays from Wade, and a 6-point Lebron James explosion with under 3 minutes to go to put the Pacers away for good.
Speaking of Lebron James, the best player on Earth finished with 28 points, 7 assists, and 6 rebounds, and while he did it in a “quiet” way on a night where Dwyane Wade couldn’t be stopped, Lebron’s play in the 4th quarter was crucial in stifling the Pacers. One of the more impressive plays of the night saw LBJ connect on a sweeping right-handed hook off the glass early in the 4th quarter, and I’m not sure there is another player in the game that could’ve executed that shot in the same fashion.
In the end, Indiana’s 37-26 rebounding margin and balanced scoring attack couldn’t overcome their 20 turnovers (including 16 in the first 3 quarters) and their inability to slow down Wade and James. In fairness to the Pacers, I don’t think there’s anyone that could’ve slowed Wade on a night where he seemed to connect from every possible angle, but the combination of George Hill, Dahntay Jones, Leandro Barbosa, and Darren Collison had no chance. It was certainly a valiant effort from a team without that bonafide “superstar”, and I was pretty impressed by the tactics of Vogel in taking advantage of the undermanned Heat roster at times. This is a young team on the rise if they can keep their core in tact while guys like Hibbert, Collison, and George are likely to continue their improvement.
For Miami, they are going to be incredibly difficult to knock off on any night where Wade and James combine for 69 points on 48 shots, but I thought the play of Mike Miller (4 of 7 on threes, 12 points) and Mario Chalmers (3 of 4 on threes, 15 points) was huge in this one. Miami is the clear favorite against either Boston or Philadelphia, but as long as Chris Bosh is on the shelf (and he’s reportedly unlikely to play in Game 1), they’ll need Wade and James to play at or near the level they’ve finished this series at, and that is certainly a tall order.
Miami wins series 4-2, advances to Eastern Conf. Finals
Topics: Chris Bosh, Dahntay Jones, Darren Collison, David West, Frank Vogel, George Hill, Indiana Pacers, Leandro Barbosa, LeBron James, Mario Chalmers, Miami Heat, Mike Miller, NBA Playoffs, Paul George, Roy Hibbert, Shane Battier