Miami’s Big Two was more than enough to finish off the Indiana Pacers.
Dwyane Wade and LeBron James turned around a season on the brink with perhaps the most remarkable week of their high-powered partnership, capped off by a 105-93 victory in Game 6 Thursday night that sent the Heat back to the Eastern Conference finals.
Wade scored 41 points, James had 28 and Miami wrapped up the series 4-2, advancing to face either Boston or Philadelphia.
But this was about more than one game.
This was a dazzling trilogy, Wade and James taking control when the Heat were down and looked like they might be out.
”In the regular season, we’ve had some good games,” Wade said. ”But I don’t know if we’ve ever had three in a row like that in the playoffs.”
Seven days earlier, Miami trailed 2-1 in the series after getting routed 94-75 in Indianapolis. The fired-up Pacers had another game on their home court and a chance to build a commanding lead.
Instead, the Big Three-Turned-Two took over.
With Chris Bosh sidelined by an abdominal injury, James and Wade soared to new heights in their two-man game. Over the course of three dazzling games, James scored 98 points, grabbed 34 rebounds and dished out 24 assists. Wade had 99 points, 22 rebounds and 11 assists.
— Reported by Paul Newberry of the Associated Press
“When Wade and James are going like they were tonight and in this series, they’re going to be tough to beat by anybody,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “They were just spectacular in this series, and they were too much for us.”
The Pacers got every conceivable break they could possibly want in this series. They saw Chris Bosh leave the series at halftime of Game 1. They got the one-game suspension of Udonis Haslem for Game 6. They should have taken this thing to seven games, making this a bit of a disappointment in the end.
So there will be regret.
Regret they didn’t take more advantage of the mismatches with Roy Hibbert and David West, the fact they continually failed to feed Hibbert in the post.
Regret they failed to take advantage of Haslem’s one-game suspension in Game 6.
Regret they were sloppy — not soft, but sloppy — turning the ball over 22 times, leading to 26 Heat points.
— Reported by Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star
Miami, led by James and Wade, turned the Pacers’ 22 turnovers into 26 points.
The Pacers averaged 14 turnovers a game during the regular season.
“For whatever reason, we weren’t strong enough with the ball,” Pacers forward David West said. “We didn’t take care of it enough. They’re too good. They capitalize on mistakes. We just got too loose with the ball. They put pressure on you all over the court. We just made some bad plays.”
Three of the five starters had at least three turnovers.
These weren’t normal turnovers, either.
Paul George sent a pass sailing about five rows into the stands on a fast break. Leandro Barbosa attempted to throw a skip pass that landed in the stands.
“I felt the guys were pressing a little bit too much,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “Some of them came from being a little too excited. A lot of these guys are new to this level of play, this level of the playoffs. It’s growing pains.”
— Reported by Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star
“Chris Bosh is an awesome basketball player,” Vogel said, “but when he goes down that means more touches for LeBron and Wade and that’s not necessarily an advantage.”
Then there was the absence of Haslem due to his flagrant foul in Tuesday’s Game 5 free-for-all. While that allowed Pacers power forward David West to step forward with a series-high 24 points, the Heat got enough to offset that with 15 points from point guard Mario Chalmers and 12 from reserve forward Mike Miller.
“I think we’re getting more comfortable playing with a different starting lineup, playing without Chris,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Miller had scored 10 total points in the series’ first five games, before draining four 3-pointers Thursday.
— Reported by Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel
But these weren’t the show-stopping, glitz-heavy Hollywood Heat this series in the manner some think them. They lived the Sean Connery line from The Untouchables in this series: “They pull a knife, you pull a gun. They send one of yours to the hospital, you send one of theirs to the morgue.”
Indiana’s Tyler Hansbrough bloodied Wade in the lane? Udonis Haslem bodyslammed Hansbrough to the ground.
Lance Stephenson gave the “choke” sign to LeBron. Dexter Pittman pole-axed Stephenson to the floor in another game.
They came in undermanned without Bosh and the suspended Haslem this Game 6. They fell behind early, kept their composure and ultimately left no doubt who was the better team.
As they should have. As their talent demands. But down 2-1 in this series they faced the kind of crossroads no one expected and Indiana tried to take advantage of.
— Reported by Dave Hyde of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel