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NBA: Heat pound Pacers in G7, head to finals

NBA

Indiana’s Roy Hibbert (55) face guards Miami’s Chris Bosh during Game 7 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals.

The Miami Heat punched their ticket to the NBA Finals on Monday night with a 99:76 victory over the Indiana Pacers. The Heat got 32 from LeBron James and 21 from Dwayne Wade on their way to the sound defeat of the Pacers and completing the next step on their journey to defend their 2012 NBA Finals title.

The second quarter was the turning point in the contest as the Heat went on a 13:5 run over the last five minutes of the frame, ending up outscoring the Pacers 33:16 to build a 52:37 lead at the break.

The next challenge for the Heat will be to square off with San Antonio in the Finals starting on Thursday in Miami. The Spurs have had an extend break, while Miami has gone through a tough seven-game series. Will the Spurs will be rusty? Will the Heat show signs of fatigue?

The Pacers committed 15 turnovers in the first half, squandering multiple opportunities in the paint. Fortunately for Indiana, the Heat only got eight points off the miscues, but even though the hosts couldn’t take advantage more often, the turnovers prevented Indiana from scoring as well…

A key stat for the Pacers was the lack of production from Paul George, who was averaging 21.5 points per game in the first six games, but only tallied seven in Game 7. George fouled out of the contest with seven and a half minutes to play in the fourth frame.

At the front of the stat sheet things looked fairly even with Miami shooting 30 of 76 (39.5%) from the floor, including 6 of 16 (37.5%) from beyond the stripe; while the Pacers shot 28 of 69 (40.6%) from the floor, with 6 of 20 (30.0%) from long-range. The difference in the game? The free throw line. Miami connected on 30 of 38 (86.8%), while the Pacers only dropped 14 of 20 (70.0%). James made more free throws (15 of 16) than the Pacers as a team did. The Heat also outrebounded Indiana 43-36.

After the first frame, Indiana held a two-point margin, 19:21, but committed nine turnovers in the opening 12.

Miami took control in the second, playing more aggressively by attacking the basket, and Roy Hibbert. The tactic worked to get the Heat more looks inside and put Hibbert in foul trouble, picking up his third personal late in the frame.

Hibbert opened the scoring in the second 12, but the Heat followed with a 9:2 run to take the lead 28:25 early on. After a pair of singles from the Pacers’ D.J. Augustin, Miami had another run, this one 12:2 to get a double-digit lead mid-way through the quarter, 39:29. George Hill knocked down a three-ball with five and a half minutes to play in the half to cut the lead to seven. James took the ball to the paint and connected on a lay-up to start a 13:5 run that would finish off the half. Ray Allen hit his third triple of the first half, but the rest of the points came from James and Wade. By the end of the half James had scored 18, Allen and Wade added 10 each. The clubs headed to the dressing rooms at the intermission with Miami up 52:37.

They taught us a lesson. This team has been there before. They have been to the championship. They’ve won it all. And they know how to ratchet up their defense at a level that just imposes their will on a basketball game.
–Pacers coach Frank Vogel

The Heat added eight to their margin in the third, outscoring the Pacers 24:18, including 11 free throws in the frame. George committed his fourth foul with 46 seconds left to put Chris Andersen on the line for a pair, then got his fifth foul with 1.9 seconds to play in the quarter as James drove the lane for a final shot, resulting in a pair of singles giving Miami a 21-point lead heading into the final frame, 76:55. Hibbert picked up his fifth foul with just over two minutes to play in the quarter.

A 12:2 run in the middle of the final stanza gave the Heat their biggest lead of the contest at 28, 91:63. The rest of the quarter was a formality as the Pacers offered up no challenge to the Heat, handing the defending champs a spot in the Finals that will tip off on Thursday in Miami.

James was game-high with 32 points and 8 rebounds. Wade added 21 points and 9 rebounds, and Allen tallied 10.

Hibbert led the Pacers with 18 points and 8 rebounds. West added 14 points and 6 rebounds, Hill dropped in 13, and Lance Stephenson contributed 10 points and 6 rebounds.

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