The Miami Heat reached their third consecutive NBA Finals on Monday night thanks to the most intense performance of the series from everyone not named LeBron James.
Granted, the King still knocked down 32 points and grabbed 8 rebounds while holding Indiana’s Paul George to just 7 points on the night, but for once his teammates showed up in a significant enough manner to be mentioned as part of the story. In particular, the Heat crashed the boards with determination, outrebounding Indiana for only the second time in this series and by the largest margin yet, winning the glass 43-36.
Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Chris Andersen combined for 22 of those boards and while the latter pair only provided 16 points between them, Wade and Ray Allen combined for 31 points and some timely buckets that helped bury the Pacers by halftime.
In truth, everyone on the Heat finally did their part. Norris Cole wasn’t a major factor, but his 8 points and 4 assists were enough of a presence in 20 minutes off the bench to keep the Miami boot on the Pacers necks. Mike Miller was useless shooting the ball, but he finished with a game high three steals that helped Miami create 21 Pacer turnovers on the night.
Defensively, this game was a gem from the champions, shutting down that vaunted Indiana front court for the first time all series. Roy Hibbert and David West combined were cancelled out by James offensively, scoring 32 and grabbing just 14 rebounds. The Heat managed to get Hibbert in foul trouble, changing the way the Georgetown big man had to play and by the time the fourth quarter came, game seven was down to the formality of Miami finishing it off.
From the opening tip off, Miami had the championship posture. Suddenly, Wade’s injuries didn’t seem to be bothering him and Bosh was interested in acting like a power forward or center for once. Granted, he still didn’t add anything offensively in the paint, but then again, Eric Spoelstra doesn’t ask him to. The important thing is that he was there to rebound and he was there on defense. This was by far the most impressive display of dominance of this postseason from the Heat and it’s because James had the help he needs to win a title.
The Heat proved their point in game seven about what kind of team they are, but the big question of can the rest of them play like that in every game of the NBA Finals still looms. The San Antonio Spurs can, because they play like that every night they take the floor. While Indiana was a good story and did well to push the series with Miami as far as they did, the Heat ensured with last night’s victory that the NBA Finals will be the most compelling it can be. Four time champions against defending champions, Tim Duncan vs LeBron. The original big three of Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Duncan vs Wade, Bosh and the King, does it really get better than that?
You have to love game sevens, but last night failed in the drama department and certainly paled in comparison to what we’re about to witness.