NBA: Heat rip Pacers to reach title showdown with Spurs
MIAMI—LeBron James scored 32 points and the defending champion Miami Heat advanced to the NBA Finals for the third year in a row on Monday with a 99-76 victory over the Indiana Pacers.
The Heat captured the best-of-seven Eastern Conference final four games to three and booked a championship series showdown against the San Antonio Spurs that will open on Thursday at Miami.
Dwyane Wade added 21 points on 7-of-16 shooting and grabbed nine rebounds while James, who hit 8-of-17 from the field, grabbed eight rebounds. Chris Bosh contributed nine points and eight rebounds for the Heat.
“It was about finding a way to win at home,” Wade said. “It’s game seven. You have to give everything you have got. My teammates did some things to loosen me up and that got me going.”
The Heat lost to Dallas in the 2011 championship series but defeated Oklahoma City for last year’s crown.
“Going back to the final three straight years is an amazing feat,” said Wade, who had his best scoring night since April 23. “I’m glad we were able to do it.”
Miami swiped much of the drama with a dominating second quarter, outscoring Indiana 33-16 to seize a 52-37 half-time edge, James scoring 18 points in the opening two quarters.
The Pacers made 15 turnovers in the first half, 10 more than Miami, and the Heat made eight first-half steals to only two for Indiana.
In the second half, the Heat stretched the margin and held the Pacers at bay to the finish, with Miami fans chanting and cheering over most of the last half of the fourth quarter as the heat won for the 28th time in the past 31 home games.
Roy Hibbert led Indiana with 18 points.
Miami won both regular-season meetings with the Spurs, but each team benched top talent on the other’s home court, leaving neither game a true test of what they could offer with the title on the line.
“We just got finished with a two-fisted series and now we have got to get ready for what that great team is going to throw at us,” Wade said.