Miami Heat 105, Indiana Pacers 93 (Heat win series 4-2)
A dominant five-day and 10-quarter stretch from the Miami Heat has put them back in the Eastern Conference finals for the second year in a row and the fifth time in franchise history. And the Indiana Pacers will be left to figure out just how they went from series leader after Game 3, with all the momentum on their side, to out of the postseason in just a week's time.
And the rest of the NBA is wondering just what doctor Dwyane Wade visited last weekend. Does he do other body parts and does he work on Friday afternoons?
It was an astonishing night for Wade, a player who has been beyond dominant during the Heat turnaround that started with the third quarter in Sunday's Game 4. Forty-one points for the All-Star, missing just eight shots in 25 tries while pulling in 10 needed rebounds for a team featuring big minutes for two of the best-defending-but-worst-rebounding front-court players in the NBA in Joel Anthony and Shane Battier. Most frightening was the way Wade was scoring, consistently going glass with a series of runners, not exactly taking and making bad shots, but taking and making tough shots. Gorgeous game from Wade, and after all our worry from last week, it's great to watch.
LeBron James was the needed closer, of sorts, in the game's final minutes. The Pacers had cut the lead to seven before curiously pulling Roy Hibbert (who had trouble containing Heat drivers once they blew past their men). James scored on two expertly timed quick-hitters around the rim, finishing the night with 28 points, seven assists, six rebounds and three steals, and it just wasn't fair. Mike Miller (!) and Mario Chalmers combined for seven 3-pointers on 7 of 11 from behind the arc, Anthony paired great "D" with two fantastic scores in the paint (!!), and Battier made up for his 1-for-7 night from the floor by staving off two Indiana runs with both an assist and make in the deciding third quarter.
As with all potential champions, the Heat are becoming a third quarter team. Good thing, because Indy made a strong showing to start Game 6. LeBron was slightly off his game early, settling for jumpers that weren't awful, but not the best shots he could have taken. Indiana also successfully adjusted to the way Battier was anticipating Pacer screens by running counters and eventually dominating the paint in the second quarter.
Things fell apart again when Indy had to go to its bench. Coach Frank Vogel defending extended minutes for his pine guys ("you have to play your bench at some point"), but the fact remains that things fell apart offensively for his team with Leandro Barbosa (who didn't play in the second half) killing his team's momentum with ineffective play. The ball went away from Hibbert, an unfortunate trend over the last week, and the Pacers either didn't have the legs (or, in Vogel's estimation, the horses) to trap Miami's stars and for more pell-mell ball movement and plays created by lesser known Heat'ians.
[Video: LeBron's embarrassing miss ]
Though, as we noted above, Miller, Battier and even Anthony acquitted themselves quite well when things got hairy.
We'll have more on the Pacers later on Friday. For now let's just marvel at how scary the Heat can be, especially without playing alongside the spacing from Chris Bosh and/or Udonis Haslem that we thought necessary for them to beat great teams.
Erik Spoelstra has been absolutely on top of it during this postseason with his adjustments. He was one step ahead of Frank Vogel in this series, and save for some goofy asides (like starting Dexter Pittman in Game 3, sitting Udonis Haslem in the second half of that contest), he's been fantastic. And he's had help — Haslem in Game 4, Battier in Game 5, Miller in Game 6 — along the way.
Wade and James have combined to average more than 65 points per game in the squad's last three wins, and while basketball orthodoxy will tell you to not expect this moving forward for this duo … they're Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. It's doable. It's necessary to win, which is an unfortunate thing for such a top-heavy team, but it's doable.
It's the Miami Heat. And it's scary.
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