With their 99-76 win over Indiana Pacers the Miami Heat are heading to the NBA Finals. This series was hard fought throughout and both teams made their share of headlines in this back and forth series. Unfortunately, someone had to lose, and that someone turned out to be Indiana Pacers. The Miami Heat now has the right to join the San Antonio Spurs for a chance at the NBA championship.
This series saw neither team put together a winning streak through the first six games. Alternating victories after the Miami Heat took game one, the Indiana Pacers refused to back down, and came roaring back after each Heat victory to leave the series tied at 3 games a piece heading into tonight’s ball game.
Intensity ruled the series, with multiple flagrant fouls and even a suspension highlighting the physical play that made this such an entertaining story line to follow for the past week or so. The suspension was a result of a flagrant two against Chris ‘Birdman’ Andersen. The call was initially just ruled a flagrant after Andersen pushed Heat Forward Tyler Hansborough down and refused to let refs break up the incident during game five. While on the sideline for game six, the Pacers were able to exploit a Heat front court that lacked any ability to handle Roy Hibbert and David West inside.
Problems for the Miami Heat that hadn’t existed all season emerged in this series, exposing them for the future. Lebron James practically had to carry his team to get to this point, similar to what he had to do while on the Cleveland Cavaliers. Members of the ‘big three’ in Miami and All-Stars Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade struggled to score throughout the series. Reggie Miller even went as far as to say that Dwayne Wade wasn’t playing like he was interested in the series, while Chris Bosh actually apologized to his team for his poor play before tonight’s game.
As a result of this series, flopping came to take center stage in the eyes of many fans and league officials. A rule that was introduced this season, and was little used for most of the year, Lebron drew attention to the technique by saying he didn’t use it himself but did understand the merit of the technique. He was shown to be a liar by countless YouTube videos, but both teams used this and two men were fined for their flops during the series. Thanks to the Pacers and Spurs the league will be keeping a closer eye out for floppers moving forward.
Tonight’s game began with an oddly sloppy first quarter. Neither team looked as sharp offensively as one would have expected considering this was game seven in the Eastern Conference Championship. The Pacers were able to finish the quarter with a slim two point lead despite the fact that they turned the ball over an astonishing nine times in that period alone.
Heading into the second quarter, the Indiana Pacers had won eight of the past 13 quarters of action in this series, and seemed to have all the momentum to close out a victory in the series. However this quarter didn’t go according to plan. The Indiana offense was cold, mustering just 16 points in the period.
Birdman seized the momentum for the Heat with a key put back dunk that got the crowd to its feet. The Heat carried this momentum to a rout in the quarter. Lebron added an alley oop shortly after, and the Miami Heat finally started to get offensive contributions from players not named Lebron. Chris Bosh looked excited and energetic, riding his adrenaline to finally play in a way that he wouldn’t have to apologize for later on.
Ray Allen was the unsung hero of the first half, putting up ten points and adding several key threes while the Heat overcame a first quarter deficit to take a fifteen point lead into halftime.
Failing to turn the tables in the third quarter the Indiana Pacers continued to stay behind the Miami Heat. Defensive intensity by the Miami Heat continued to pressure the Pacer offense into mistakes. The interior advantage the Pacers had enjoyed the whole series was nowhere to be found, as the Heat kept the momentum and began to pull away in the third.
Lebron James was able to shake the defense of the Pacers and find himself with many open looks. He began the period with a three to answer a Pacer three and prevent the comeback before it started. The Heat went on another run and built the lead to 21 points by the end of the quarter.
Although it was fairly clear that the Miami Heat would beat the Indiana Pacers and be headed to the NBA Finals by the time the fourth quarter rolled around, they continued to pressure their opponent early, extending the lead to 23 early on. The comeback effort was all but extinguished when rising star Paul George, who was ineffective with only 7 points on the night, fouled out with nearly 8 minutes still on the clock.
By the time the final buzzer sounded, the Miami Heat had defeated the Indiana Pacers by a score of 99-76 and were headed to the NBA Finals. The victory was thanks in part to Lebron finally having teammates that helped him, Dwayne Wade scored twenty plus points for the first time in 12 games, or the opening round of the playoffs.
Overcoming their disadvantage in the paint, the Heat showed tonight that they have the ability to hang with the best in the league at any style of play. They adjusted their strategy for defending inside, adding pressure upon ball entry, and wound up actually winning the points in the paint battle during their victory tonight. They will have to keep up the intense play inside against the San Antonio Spurs in the finals, as they are also an efficient interior scoring team.
Rebounding also proved a major advantage for the Heat tonight, as they controlled the boards in dramatic fashion throughout the game, limiting the second chance opportunities of the Pacers while creating plenty of their own. Pair that with the huge amount of turnovers forced by their defense and the Heat took control of this game easily in route to victory.
The San Antonio Spurs will now face off against the Miami Heat. The Spurs have looked absolutely dominant in this year’s post season. They opened the playoffs with a 4-0 sweep over the Kobe Bryant-less Lakers, handling the perennial contender with ease. The second round saw them face off against red hot Golden State, but Tim Duncan and company were easily able to cool off Stephen Curry and the rest of the Warriors as they defeated them in six games. The Conference Semifinal against the Memphis Grizzlies was also a walk in the park, the Spurs secured their second sweep of the post season and have been resting as they watched the drama of this series play out.
Tim Duncan has looked like a kid again, defying age every time he steps on the court. He continues to near Magic Johnson’s career post season double double record, and is now in position to break the record should his team qualify for the playoffs for a seventeenth straight time next season.
Facing the (winner) won’t be a walk in the park for the San Antonio Spurs, but the veteran bunch will prove well rested and is playing as hot as anyone in the league right now. Having three games to scout out the Miami Heat should prove beneficial for Tim Duncan and his teammates as they try to earn the future Hall of Famer his fifth NBA title.
The Miami Heat are heading to the NBA Finals after defeating the Indiana Pacers in a grueling Eastern Conference Final. Their work isn’t done however, and they will have only two days to gear up for another series against a top tier opponent that starts on Thursday. Repeating a title in professional sports isn’t an easy task in this era of free agency, yet Lebron James and the Miami Heat will have a chance to accomplish this rare feat when they head to the NBA Finals Thursday night.
Follow me on Twitter @CharlieGille
Senior Sports Editor
The Guardian Express