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Dwyane Wade delivers death blow to Pacers

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Udonis Haslem served a one-game suspension Thursday night for his flagrant foul on Tyler Hansbrough moments after Hansbrough committed a flagrant foul against Dwyane Wade. Haslem simply protected his teammate in that instance. With an opportunity to close out the pesky Indiana Pacers on the road, Wade put forth a brilliant performance to make the person who has stood by him his entire NBA career proud. As a result, the Heat will go to the conference finals for the fifth time in franchise history.

The 2008-09 scoring champion scored 41 points on a remarkably efficient 17-of-25 shooting from the field and 7-of-8 shooting from the foul line. Wade also grabbed 10 rebounds, a team high. Although the Pacers began double-teaming Wade in the fourth quarter, he found a way to make three crucial baskets late in the game. The last one came as Wade split two defenders on a pick-and-roll and made an acrobatic layup over two other defenders for an and-one to put Miami up 11 with three minutes left.

Indiana came storming back to cut the lead to five, though. But LeBron James made two consecutive layups - the first one coming on a Wade/James pick-and-roll - to ice the game. The three-time MVP added 28 points on 12-of-23 shooting from the field, six rebounds, seven assists and three steals.

The Heat's two superstars played well, but the Heat also received timely contributions from several of the supporting players with Chris Bosh and Haslem out. Mario Chalmers made three 3s and scored 15 points. Joel Anthony played 34 minutes off the bench and defended the 7-foot-2 Roy Hibbert well, holding him to just eight field goal attempts. Anthony also made a key three-point play in the fourth quarter and recorded two blocks. With Miami thin on the front line, Anthony gave all his effort into defending a bigger player and performed admirably.

Any coach will say that to close out a series on the road, the team with the series lead should weather the early storm. The Miami Heat did it in Game 6 of the 2006 NBA Finals, storming back from a first-quarter deficit to win the championship. With their season on the line, the Indiana Pacers jumped out to a 10-2 lead and build a double-digit lead later in the quarter. David West aggressively attacked the smaller Shane Battier and he made a few baskets to ignite the crowd. West consistently took advantage of Battier, scoring 24 points on 10-of-16 shooting.

Miami used a second-quarter comeback with Wade dominating his opponent in the post before later nailing a few jumpers to score 20 points in that period, though. Mike Miller gave Miami some nice shooting, nailing three 3-pointers in the first half. Despite his array of injuries, Miller was able to defend the quick Leandro Barbosa quite well, even getting a clean strip that led to a nice 3 on the other end of the court.

For the first time in this series, the team that won the rebounding battle did not win the game. But the team that won the third quarter won the game for the sixth consecutive time in this series, with Miami entering the quarter down two and finishing it up 10. The Heat executed a perfect two-for-one to close the quarter, with Miller and Chalmers knocking down 3s in the final 45 seconds of the stanza.

The Heat will host either the Boston Celtics or the Philadelphia 76ers Monday night at 8:30 to open up the Eastern Conference Finals.