Heat pound Pacers, secure 4th straight Finals berth
Miami, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - Lance Stephenson's tap under the chin of LeBron James didn't rattle the four-time league MVP or the Heat.
It had the opposite effect.
The Indiana Pacers were blown out and Miami moved into the NBA Finals for a fourth straight year.
James poured in 25 points in only three quarters as Miami rolled to a 117-92 win in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals Friday night.
Chris Bosh also scored 25 to go with eight rebounds. Dwyane Wade and Rashard Lewis both scored 13 points.
The two-time defending NBA champions will be on the road for Game 1 of the NBA Finals next Thursday against either San Antonio or Oklahoma City. The Spurs, who lost to the Heat in seven games in last year's Finals, can close out the Western Conference set Saturday night in Game 6.
It's the fourth time a team has made the Finals four straight years. The last club to accomplish the feat was the Boston Celtics from 1984-87.
"We know it's a very long season." Bosh said. "It has its rewards in the end if we stick together and do what we're supposed to do. But it hasn't really hit us yet. I would rather it hit me in two weeks."
Paul George led the way for Indiana with 29 points, and all but one of them came in the second half when the game was out of reach. It was a far cry from Wednesday's 93-90 Indiana win in Game 5, when George scored 21 of his 37 points in the final quarter.
This time, the Heat put the defensive clamps on George and carried a 60-34 lead into halftime.
The Pacers never got a chance to get the series to a Game 7, a year after losing the decisive contest of the East finals in Miami.
"It's bitterly disappointing to fall short of our goals, and it's bitterly disappointing to lose to this team three years in a row, but we're competing against the Michael Jordan of our era, the Chicago Bulls of our era, and you have to tip your hats to them for the way they played this whole series," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said of James and the Heat. "You just have to go into the offseason with the mindset that we're going to reload, and we have a core, a system, a culture that's going to give us a chance every year. We've got to make whatever adjustments we have to make to come back and be here again next year."
Two nights after facing foul trouble and being held to a career playoff-low seven points and having to answer questions about Stephenson's blowing-in-the- ear incident during a late-game stoppage, James and the Heat brought down the anvil on the Pacers' postseason run, but not before some more antics from one of Indiana's top players.
The two engaged in verbal barbs with about three minutes left in the opening quarter, this after Stephenson walked over to James and lightly tapped him under the chin during a timeout.
"I have no idea how I restrained," James said. "I don't know. I guess I just understand what the bigger picture is.
"It was uncalled for, for sure. I'm at a loss of words with that, but it was uncalled for, and I was able to move on from it. I let him know how I felt."
The Pacers made four of their first seven shots to open a 9-2 lead following David West's jumper just over four minutes into the contest. Indiana then went ice cold from the field, going 1-for-12 the remainder of the quarter.
The Heat used crisp passing and tenacious defense to tear apart the Pacers. The hosts, who finished the first quarter on a 22-4 burst, made 10 of their final 14 shots. Shane Battier's 3-pointer from the left wing in the closing seconds provided the 24-13 lead after 12 minutes.
The difference didn't dip below double digits the rest of the game. In fact, it got much worse for the Pacers.
Stephenson was whistled for a Flagrant 1 foul after slapping Norris Cole across the forehead while going for a loose ball with 8:47 left in the half. That only added fuel to the fire for the Heat, who made 14-of-20 shots in the second quarter, led by Bosh's 11 points.
Wade drained a line-drive 3-pointer from the top of the arc for a 20-point margin at the midway point. A short time later, Wade streaked ahead of the field and received a perfect bounce pass from James for an easy bucket.
George had just one point at halftime after missing all six of his field-goal attempts.
James, who had 10 points in the third quarter, hit a driving finger roll layup for an 86-49 margin with 3:39 left in the period. The Heat held a 91-58 bulge moving to the fourth and were up by at least 24 the rest of the game.
"For the most part, what we've got on our side is youth," George said. "For us to continue to keep getting to the conference finals, it's good. It's something that we can look forward to. Eventually, we've got to be able to get past this point with how young we are and the experience we continue to keep gaining."
The Heat won their 11th straight postseason series, which is tied for fifth- longest on the NBA's all-time list ... Miami has won its last 12 consecutive games at home when having the opportunity to close out a series, the longest such stretch in NBA history ... Miami has compiled a 15-5 overall mark at home when having the opportunity to close out a series, including a perfect 10-0 record under head coach Erik Spoelstra ... The Heat have won their last 12 straight postseason games following a loss ... Miami is 8-0 at home this postseason and has won 11 in a row as the host in the playoffs, the longest streak in club history ... West had 16 points and Stephenson 11 ... Miami shot 57.9 percent from the field.
05/31 00:56:15 ET