Series in Review: Heat prove their superiority once again vs. Pacers
Miami is back in the Finals and the Pacers are back to the drawing board as the Heat win the Eastern Conference Finals 4-2.
I mean, do you have to ask? Outside of Game 5 due to foul trouble, LeBron James averaged 26 points, eight rebounds, 5.8 assists in the first four games, and shot 59 percent from the floor. He spurred the comeback in Game 2. He lead the team in Game 3. He dominated in Game 4 and left no question in Game 6, finishing with 25 points, four rebounds and six assists on 8-of-12 shooting.
There is talk that this Miami team is not as good as in previous years. And LeBron James' defense has not been what you expect from the greatest player on the planet. But in this series, he was a step well beyond everyone else on the floor. Dwyane Wade was fantastic. Chris Bosh finding his shot changed the rhythm of the series. But James was the best player on Earth again, and it wasn't close.
Rashard Lewis. Of all people, Rashard Lewis led the Heat in plus-minus in this series, finishing plus-83. He spread the floor, he knocked down shots for the first time since he was in a Magic uniform, and he defended David West well. Lewis did a phenomenal job off the bench with little to no actual time on the floor this season and was a difference maker, especially when Chris Andersen went down.
For two years, Erik Spoelstra has maintained that Lewis can be effective, he just needed to get healthy. His faith was rewarded in this series and Lewis goes down as a big reason the Heat won the series, or at least won it so convincingly.
THE SERIES WAS OVER WHEN...
Miami rolled the Pacers in Game 4. The Indiana win in Game 5 was more "one of those things that just happened" than anything. It was about LeBron's foul trouble and an outlier performance from the Pacers' offense. But in Game 4 when the Heat just came out and crushed the Pacers to take a 3-1 lead? That was it.
It wasn't just that the Heat won, or won in so many phases of the game. It was that watching Indiana, you could tell that they knew it, too. They were aware of who they are compared to Miami, and they didn't seem to want to fight it anymore. They were done. And so was the series.
Just google "Lance Stephenson, Heat." That should do it.
LOOKING AHEAD FOR MIAMI
A fourth straight Finals apperance, the first team to accomplish that since the 1987 Celtics. Miami awaits two teams it has beaten in the past two years, and will have five full days of rest before Game 1 on the road.
LeBron James spoke of understanding the work that need to be done still but celebrating the accomplishment, but even watching the Heat, you could tell the shine was off. They were jubilant in 2011, relieved in 2012, confident but thrilled in 2013. In 2014 they're simply determined. Determined to set a legacy for this team that will last beyond their careers, determined to prove everyone that felt they had slipped wrong, determined to prove that a threepeat isn't too hard to accomplish.
They head to the Finals looking to add a third ring, knowing how rare these chances are and how much they must appreciate the moment and prepare themselves. It only gets harder from here.
LOOKING AHEAD FOR INDIANA
Do you blow it up? You made the Eastern Conference Finals. You won two games vs. the two-time defending champions. You won the No. 1 seed. So why does this feel like such a disappointment?
Because the Pacers put everything in on winning now, this year, with home court. They never got back to Indiana for that Game 7 they worked so hard for. They have a huge question to answer in the form of Lance Stephenson. Is he worth the money for a big contract? Should they let him walk? If you do, how do you create enough money to make an upgrade?
Was the problem chemistry? Tactics? Talent? Execution? It seemed all of the above, but more than anything it looked emotional This team looked emotionally broken for much of the season, despite the fact it kept winning playoff games. Is that on Frank Vogel? Because Vogel seems like a quality coach, but he clearly couldn't get them back on the emotional coil.
Stand pat, stay the course, keep the path?
There are no easy answers. The Pacers should have been better. They were better, until they weren't. Then it all fell apart.
It shows you how fragile this basketball thing is, and how it doesn't just take injury to make a team fall apart.
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