Wade scores 41 to help Heat close out Pacers
INDIANAPOLIS — The nightmare that had been a 2-1 series deficit a week earlier turned into a ticket to the Eastern Conference finals on Thursday night for the Miami Heat.
Shorthanded, but armed with plenty of Dwyane Wade’s playoff best, the Heat pushed past the Indiana Pacers 105-93 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
“We gave ‘em a little wake-up call,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said, “and ever since that Game 3, these guys played at such a high level that I don’t know if anybody can beat them.”
The victory, played in the suspension absence of Heat power-rotation players Udonis Haslem and Dexter Pittman, closed out a 4-2 Heat win in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series.
“They were terrific tonight, they were really terrific the whole series,” Vogel said. “When Wade and [LeBron] James are going like they were going tonight, they’re going to be tough to beat by anybody.”
The Heat, who were led by Wade’s 41 points, face the winner of Saturday’s Game 7 between the Boston Celtics and visiting Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference finals, with that series to open Monday on the Heat’s home court.
“You know I appreciate extra rest,” Wade said. “I’m never going to cross my eye on that at all. I thought it’s well deserved.”
Wade was supported by 28 points from James, with strong supporting efforts from starting point guard Mario Chalmers (15 points) and reserve forward Mike Miller (12).
“The end result is it gives us three days, and we can use it,” James said.
For the Heat it was another step in their evolution in the absence of sidelined power forward Chris Bosh, who remains out indefinitely with a lower-abdominal strain sustained in the first half of the series opener.
“I think we’re getting more comfortable playing with a different starting lineup, playing without Chris,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Forward David West led the Pacers with a series-high 24 points.
“It’s just not our time yet,” West said. “This series was there for the taking. I just felt we got on our heels the last three games.”
The Pacers found themselves limited when forward Danny Granger was called for his fifth foul with 7:59 to play. Vogel kept him in the game, with the Pacers down 86-78 after Heat center Joel Anthony completed a 3-point play.
The Heat got their own limiting call on the opposite end, when Chalmers was called for his fifth foul with 7:38 left.
But Miami had enough to hold on.
“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 [for us].”
The Heat ended the third quarter on a 9-0 run to go into the fourth quarter up 79-69.
It was the fifth consecutive game in which one of the teams won the third quarter by 12 or more points, with the Heat outscoring the Pacers 85-49 in the last three third quarters.
While the game was not nearly as contentious as might have been anticipated after the flagrant fouls of Game 5, West was called for a third-period technical foul for a blow to the head of Heat forward Shane Battier.
The game was back and forth for most of the third period, with Wade continuing his hot play, supported by James.
But with Miller hitting his fourth 3-pointer of the game late in the third, and then Chalmers following with one of his own just before the buzzer, the Heat went into the fourth quarter up 10, after trailing by two at half.
It was a sizzling second quarter for Wade, who scored 12 consecutive Heat points during one stretch as part of his 9-of-12 start from the field. He scored 20 points in the second quarter, his high for a period this postseason.
“It was spectacular from the beginning to the end,” James said of Wade. “He was in a rhythm early and he just kept it going.”
Even with all that, the Pacers, who used a 10-0 run late in the second quarter, pushed to a 53-51 halftime lead.
Wade led the Heat with 26 first-half points, matching Tim Hardaway’s franchise first-half postseason record. West led the Pacers with 14 over the opening two periods.
The Heat got an unexpected early boost from reserve forward Miller, who converted three 3-pointers for nine first-half points, after scoring 10 total points in the first five games of the series.
A 16-2 run that bridged the first and second quarters pushed the Heat to a 34-30 lead, after a Wade fastbreak pass for a James dunk. The Pacers had led 28-18 before the Heat surge.
“My teammates continued to get me open, continued to look for me,” Wade said.
It again was a case of the Heat making a move with Pacers center Roy Hibbert on the bench.
The Pacers led 28-21 after the first quarter, the most points the Heat have allowed in an opening period this postseason, paced by nine points in the period by Granger. The Pacers outrebounded the Heat 14-3 in the quarter.
The Pacers got off to a sizzling start, opening 6 of 7 from the field. The Heat, by contrast, opened 1 of 7, which staked Indiana to an early 13-3 lead. One of those Heat points came on a technical foul on Pacers guard Paul George less than four minutes in, for talking to the Heat bench.
After struggling to an 0-for-5 start in Game 5, West opened 4-of-4 from the field, utilizing his significant size advantage over Battier. Coming off a Game 4 sprained ankle, Granger also opened 4-for-4 from the field, as Indiana stretched its lead to 11 at one point in the opening period. Granger later improved to 5-for-5.
NOTES: In order to get back on the court from Tuesday’s sprained ankle, Granger said he took, “every kind of anti-inflammatory I’ve ever heard of.” He downplayed the left ankle having swelled to the size of a baseball. “I’m a notorious sweller anyways,” he said . . . Going in, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra had some harsh words about physical play against James and Wade by the Pacers in the season’s previous meetings. “In nine games now, there’s been over a dozen hard fouls to the face, some of the tomahawk variety,” he said . . . Spoelstra indicated the Heat were not happy with the Game 5 flagrant foul that left center Pittman suspended by the NBA for three games. “Anything else that has to deal with Dexter,” he said, “we’ll handle behind closed doors.” . . . With Pittman and Haslem suspended and Bosh still out, Eddy Curry was activated for the first time this postseason for the Heat.