Fresh off of a Game 5 win, the Indiana Pacers found themselves back in the Eastern Conference Finals with the Miami Heat. Any hope garnered from that victory, however, was squelched with a 117-92 Game 6 win by the Heat on Friday to send the franchise to their fourth consecutive NBA Finals.
Even the vaunted Indiana defense couldn’t slow down Miami’s offense. Lebron James scoring 25 points wasn’t unexpected, but the Pacers also had no answer for center Chris Bosh, who had 25 of his own. The Heat got less from Dwyane Wade (13), but had more than enough firepower to cruise to an easy win.
For the Pacers, the game was over before it started.
Indiana mustered only 13 points in the first quarter, and falling behind 24-13 on the road against the defending champions was a virtual death sentence. Interestingly enough, the Pacers got out to a 9-2 lead and looked like they would contend. After that, though, the team’s offense simply disappeared.
After that 9-2 advantage with just under eight minutes to play, Indiana suffered a dismal offensive stretch. Over the next several minutes, the Pacers had five straight missed shots and a turnover. After a made free throw and a three-pointer on the team’s next two possessions, the embarrassing performance continued with six more consecutive misses and a turnover to close out the quarter.
In all, since that early lead, the Pacers’ offensive possessions read like this: turnover, miss, miss, miss, miss, miss, 1-2 free throws made, three-point shot, miss, miss, turnover, miss, miss, miss, miss.
In case there was any idea of an Indiana comeback, the Heat dismissed that notion rather quickly. The Pacers’ offense picked up a bit in the second quarter, but the Miami offense was every bit as ‘white hot’, displayed on their post-game t-shirts. The Heat shot a blistering 74 percent from the field in the second quarter, scoring an amazing 36 points against one of the defenses in the league to post an insurmountable lead.
Facing a 26-point deficit against any team at the half is extremely difficult to overcome. Against the Heat in Miami made it nearly impossible. The slow start doomed any chance the franchise had of beating Lebron to reach the finals yet again.
In the end, it was a similar story as in past seasons. Miami has bounced Indiana from the postseason each of the past three years – the last two times, in the Conference Finals. Head coach Frank Vogel had the perfect ‘take’ at the end of the game:
“It’s bitterly disappointing to fall short of our goals,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “It’s bitterly disappointing to lose to this team three years in a row. But we’re competing against the Michael Jordan of our era, the Chicago Bulls of our era, and you have to tip your hats to them for the way they played this whole series.”
The Pacers are in a difficult spot here, similar to the Knicks of the 1990s that couldn’t get to the NBA Finals past Michael Jordan and the Bulls. In any other era, they would stand a far better chance to get past the Conference Finals. Unfortunately for them, if James returns to the Heat, it’s hard to see a different result next year.