What looked like a potential collapse for the Miami Heat ended up being a massacre for the Indiana Pacers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Miami Heat defeated the Indiana Pacers 99-76 on Monday night to advance to the NBA Finals for the third year in a row, becoming the first Eastern Conference team to do so since the ’96-98 Chicago Bulls.
“I just came in the game with a different mindset, just to be aggressive,” Dwyane Wade said in the postgame interview.
Wade’s averages of 14.3 points a game, 4.5 rebounds and 4.8 assists in the series were a mere shade of himself six games in. As superstars do, Wade stepped up when it mattered most, scoring 21 points on 7-16 shooting while grabbing nine rebounds, six of which were offensive (!!!) that contributed to the Heat’s 15 total offensive boards. Crashing the offensive glass rewarded the Heat with 22 second-chance points. This absolutely killed Indiana. He also picked up a steal and a block in 35 minutes of play. He also got to the line seven times, making all his attempts. His points total matched his postseason high set April 23rd in Game 2 of the first round against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Although he turned the ball over five times, this is the Dwyane Wade that has been missing all series long. His aggression and energy were apparent all game long. If you were from another planet and had never watched the NBA prior to this series, never would you have guessed that this 6’4″ shooting guard is the second-best player on this Miami Heat squad and had the ability to dominate games endlessly only a year ago (see 2012 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals).
Wade was in attack mode, relentlessly pounding the ball inside. This proved effective, as 12 of his 21 points were scored in the paint. Those 12 points were huge for Miami, counting for 40% of the Heat’s total points in the paint: 30. In every game this series, the team that won in that category ended up winning the game, save for Indiana’s win in Game 2, where the two teams tied for 40 points apiece, and save for Miami’s win on Monday night in Game 7, where Indiana also had 30 points in the paint.
In the third quarter, with James shooting inefficiently and with Bosh still stuck in his slump, Wade took it upon himself to score, finishing with a total of nine points in the quarter on 3 for 7 shooting and going a perfect 3 for 3 from the free-throw line. He also grabbed four of his six offensive rebounds in that quarter alone.
The question is, was Wade the only factor that led to this dominant Heat win?
The answer is no, but he played a huge role, the role that is reserved for him alone.
The Heat surrounded James and Wade with players that will compliment their playing styles. Alarms will begin to sound if the two superstars fail to play their game, as Wade has shown the last little while. Luckily for him and for the Miami franchise, they have a guy named LeBron James who just happens to be the best player in the world who was able to shoulder the load while Wade snapped out of his funk or whatever you want to call it.
Ray Allen finally broke out of his shooting slump in the series where he was just 7 of 24 from the arc prior to Game 7. He scored 10 points on 3 for 6 shooting from downtown in the second quarter, ultimately helping the Heat break the game open and end the first half up by 15. The last time Allen had made 3 or more three-pointers in a game was in Game 4 against the Milwaukee Bucks, where he was 4 of 7 from three-point land. Great timing you say? I could not agree more.
We now come to Chris Bosh, who, even though inefficient scoring-wise having shot 3 of 13 from the field and ending with only nine points, finally crashed the boards and grabbed eight big rebounds, two of which were offensive. ESPN Stats & Info tells us that this was “his 2nd straight game with a FG percentage under 25%”, as he was only 1 of 8 from the field in Game 6.
Finally, the four-time league MVP, LeBron “Flying Death Machine” James. Why FDM? You may want to check out the animated image under this paragraph, and then try to look away.
Instead of summarizing his complete stat line, I will simply focus on one particularity: 15 of 16 from the free-throw line.
James has just come off his worst free-throw season in five years, dating back to the ’07-08 season when he finished at 71% while attempting 10.3 free-throws per game. In the playoffs, he has lifted his season average of 75% to 77%. This is an area of his game that I imagine he will work on in the offseason in order to get a few extra points for his team in games and also to increase his odds of converting when he goes to the line in clutch situations.
However, in a game where all is on the line, a win or go home contest, he showed up, converting on 94% of his 16 attempts. Are you in awe of another way to say 15 of 16?
The San Antonio Spurs are now what lies in the Heat’s way of repeating as champions for the second year in a row and protecting their crown. So far, one out of two South Beach superstars has shown up to play in the ’12-13 postseason. If there is to be another parade down Biscayne Boulevard a few weeks from today, Wade had better show up with the energy and aggression he brought with him to Game 7 against the Pacers.
Indiana was one beast. Popovich and San Antonio is a whole other animal.