Dwyane Wade wanted three days off, and the opportunity to watch the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers sweat out Saturday’s Game 7 of these Eastern Conference semifinals from the comfort of his couch.
So he set the tone with 26 first-half points.
And the Miami Heat kept going from there.
Even without Chris Bosh. Even without Udonis Haslem.
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With Wade closing with 41 points and LeBron James adding 28, the Heat closed out the Indiana Pacers in six games with a 105-93 victory Thursday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The Heat are now off until Monday’s start of the Eastern Conference finals at AmericanAirlines Arena, with tickets going on sale Friday at noon. Philadelphia plays at Boston on Saturday night in the decisive game of that series.
“You know I appreciate extra rest,” Wade said of the break he created for himself. “I’m never going to cross my eye on that at all. I thought it’s well deserved.”
After moving to a 2-1 series lead a week earlier, the Pacers were left to wonder what exactly hit them this past week.
“They were terrific tonight, they were really terrific the whole series,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “When Wade and James are going like they were going tonight, they’re going to be tough to beat by anybody.”
A week ago, the Heat were left to wonder whether the lower-abdominal strain sustained by power forward Chris Bosh in the first half of the series opener would short-circuit this championship quest, with Bosh still listed as being out indefinitely.
Instead, less Bosh meant more of the NBA’s ultimate tag-team perimeter combination.
“Chris Bosh is an awesome basketball player,” Vogel said, “but when he goes down that means more touches for LeBron and Wade and that’s not necessarily an advantage.”
Then there was the absence of Haslem due to his flagrant foul in Tuesday’s Game 5 free-for-all. While that allowed Pacers power forward David West to step forward with a series-high 24 points, the Heat got enough to offset that with 15 points from point guard Mario Chalmers and 12 from reserve forward Mike Miller.
“I think we’re getting more comfortable playing with a different starting lineup, playing without Chris,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Miller had scored 10 total points in the series’ first five games, before draining four 3-pointers Thursday.
The game ended with the crowd chanting, “Thank You Pacers!” as the Heat tied the third-largest comeback in franchise playoff history, from an early 11-point deficit.
“The end result is it gives us three days, and we can use it,” James said.
This game had none of the violent moments of Game 5, and was competitive almost the entire way, even after the Heat moved to a 10-point lead at the close of the third quarter.
But the third quarter again was key, for the fifth time one team outscoring the other by 12 or more points in the period. This time the Heat outscored the Pacers 28-16 in the third, to run their advantage over the Pacers in the final three third quarters of the series to 85-49.