The Miami Heat Advance to NBA Finals

Heat vs PacersFor the second year in a row, the Miami Heat found themselves playing a pivotal Game 7 on their home floor. While most people picked Miami to defeat Indiana in the series, after Indiana’s dominance in Game 6 and their general dominance inside throughout the series, the outcome was very much in doubt. Well, that is, until the second quarter started. LeBron James led the Miami Heat with 32 points, and helped spur a 33-16 2nd quarter run that allowed the Heat to seize control of the game. The defensive pressure and aggressive offensive attack overwhelmed Indiana, and Miami earned its third straight Eastern Conference Championship with a 99-76 win.

Coming into the game, much was being made of Dwyane Wade’s performance, or lack thereof. Wade produced very little over the last three games, shooting just 11-of-34 from the field, but in Game 7 he embraced the challenge. Wade’s aggression led to 21 points and nine rebounds, and helped balance the Miami attack.

“I’m just glad we was able to do it,” Dwyane Wade said. “It was about tonight. It was about finding a way to win at home.”

Both teams started the game sloppily. Miami missed several open looks and Indiana threw the ball all over the gym. The Heat hit only 29% of their shots in the first quarter, and Indiana used their size and hustle to open up a 12-6 lead early. After a Miami timeout, though, it was all Heat. Miami forced nine Indiana turnovers in the period and closed the gap to 21-19 after one.

It was during the second quarter that the game turned. Miami’s defensive pressure on Roy Hibbert prevented the dominant big-man from establishing position down low. The Heat’s constant double teams of Hibbert forced the ball from his hands, and his lack of patience resulted in several turnovers.

LeBron James scored 12 points in the second quarter, and Chris Bosh was able to shrug off a slow start to hit a pair of jumpers. Perhaps the most welcomed sight for Heat fans was the long-distance outburst by Ray Allen. After struggling with his jumper throughout the series, Ray Allen buried three three-pointers in the period. All this, coupled with Miami’s swarming defensive activity, helped them build an insurmountable 52-37 halftime lead. Miami forced 15 Indiana turnovers, and took 15 more shot attempts through the first half. Indiana couldn’t create extra possessions on the glass, and were outscored in the paint 20-10. The Heat’s Big-3 finally lived up to the billing, as the trio scored 35 of the team’s 52 first half points.

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Heat Dominate Pacers in Game 3

Miami Heat
Udonis Haslem scored 17 points on 8-of-9 shooting in Game 3. (Photo Credit: Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images)

During the first two games of this Eastern Conference Finals series, the Indiana Pacers forced the Miami Heat to read from their script. There was some question heading into Game 3 if LeBron James would continue to be a one-man show, or if he would get a lift from his teammates. Well, his teammates answered with an emphatic: Yes! Udonis Haslem scored a season-high 17 points on 8-of-9 shooting to provide the lift, as Miami dominated play for the 114-96 victory.

Indiana controlled the painted area throughout most of Game 2, and their 7’2” center, Roy Hibbert, continued to lurk near the rim, disrupting much of Miami’s offensive flow. Heat head coach Erik Spolestra adjusted his offensive attack heading into Game 3, electing to move Hibbert away from the basket and inserting both LeBron James and Dwyane Wade into the post. That move, and the great play from the supporting cast, made all the difference.

“It’s a great win,” LeBron James said after the game. “I understand for us to be great, I have to do a lot of my work on the interior. I made a conscious effort to get down in the post tonight, to put pressure on their defense. The coaching staff wanted me to be down there tonight, and my teammates allowed me to do that.”

Putting James in the post, and to a lesser extent Dwyane Wade, helped Miami control the paint—the key piece real estate in this series. Miami outscored Indiana 56-32 in the paint, despite Roy Hibbert’s 20-point, 17-rebound performance.

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