Nightly Grades: Heat head to a third straight Finals
Grades for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers.
That's how you do it. That's how you close a series in a Game 7 on you home floor against a team you're supposed to be better than.
The Pacers gave the Heat everything they wanted, but in the end, the aggressiveness of Miami's smothering defense and a brief awakening by Dwyane Wade was enough for the Heat to cruise to a third straight Finals appearance.
Miami played their style and really, sunglasses, turned up the heat. (YEEEAAAH!) The Pacers couldn't find any kind of rhythm and were just overwhelmed by the early intensity of the moment.
The Heat are where they're supposed to be. This is a team that can still establish itself as one of the greatest ever. A loss in this Game 7 and the world is crashing down and silly statements are getting made, especially about LeBron. But they're back in the Finals, which is all the goal ever was.
It's a shame for the Pacers to go out this way, with such a whimper. They played the Heat so tough and were potentially just 2.2 seconds away from holding a 2-0 lead going back to Indianapolis after the first two games.
The competed, they challenged, they battled. The exposed Miami's vulnerabilities, they took advantage of everything they could and they had the Heat on the ropes.
But it wasn't enough. Game 7 caught up to them and while the Heat looked like a team that has experienced this moment many times before, the Pacers didn't appear ready to absorb the blows.
The blowout nature of the game helped, but for the most part, we didn't notice the officiating at all. Which is always a good sign.
The tone was set early by the crew of Scott Foster, Mike Callahan and Ken Mauer that the game could be physical as they swallowed their whistles on a lot of plays.
There was the weird moment late with the ejection of Jeff Pendergraph and Norris Cole, but that was probably handled well considering the game was settled and there was no reason for nonsense at that moment.
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