It was never close nor competitive. The Miami Heat left a ringing statement in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals eliminating the Indiana Pacers from postseason play with an 117-92 win in route to their fourth straight NBA Finals appearance. They become the first team in 27 years to accomplish this feat since the Larry Bird led Boston Celtics did it from 1984-87.
In a game where the storyline surrounded mostly around the antics and shenanigans of Lance Stephenson desperately seeking to irritate LeBron James, that narrative went by the wayside pretty quickly by the middle of the 2nd quarter when the game got out of reach. Both James and Chris Bosh led the team with 25 points while Dwyane Wade added 13. Miami lead ballooned to nearly 40 points at one point in this game.
The Heat now await the winner of the Western Conference Finals between the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder which currently stand 3-2 in favor of the Spurs. Game 6 of that matchup is Saturday, May 31st. No matter the outcome, Miami will start Game 1 of the Finals on the road on Thursday, June 5th.
In a season where the Indiana Pacers prioritized and coveted the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference with the likelihood of hosting a possible Game 7 in their building, Miami took care of business in Game 6 to deny that possibility. Much speculation now begins for the Pacers as there has been much speculation to the future of head coach Frank Vogel and whether they are considering tweaking their roster once again to compete with Miami for another run next season. This is the third straight year Indiana's season has ended at the hands of the Heat and one begins to wonder what direction is next.
In the meantime, Miami joins the legendary Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers as the only franchises in NBA history to appear in four or more straight NBA Finals appearances and the Heat are looking to become only the fourth franchise in NBA history to win three straight championships (Lakers, Celtics and Chicago Bulls).
A couple of observations:
- LeBron James kept his pre-game promise of staying aggressive from the opening bell and outdoing his entire Game 5 output of 11 points in the first quarter triggering Miami to their eventual Game 6 rout.
- After struggling early in this series, Chris Bosh scored 20 or more points for the third straight game. Whatever Dwyane Wade did with him following Game 3 to get Bosh out of his funk has worked and we can all hope this great play from Chris will carry over into the NBA Finals.
- Rashard Lewis has been a major contributor on the offensive end for the last two games. While not matching his Game 5 high of 23 points, he did chip in 13 points in addition to being a +23, just 4 behind LeBron James
- Chris "Birdman" Andersen returned after a two game absence from injury and provided a lot of energy for Miami early while contributing 9 points on 4-4 shooting and 10 rebounds in only 13 minutes of play. Impressive.
- The Heat home crowd was completely engaged into the game from start to finish with most even staying for the Eastern Conference Championship presentation. They booed Lance Stephenson every time he touched the ball and even chanted "overrated" towards the Indiana Pacers most of the fourth quarter. Even ESPN's Mike Breen and the rest of the broadcasting crew made several mentions of the excited crowd, which has been harshly criticized in years past.