With easy Game 6 win, Heat show their force of will
MAY 31, 2014 1:06a ET
MIAMI -- Home-court advantage didn't matter.
Lance Stephenson's shenanigans didn't count for anything, either.
Instead, it was the Miami Heat who made all the right moves, just as they have for going on four years.
The proof came Friday night, when the Heat routed the Indiana Pacers 117-92 at AmericanAirlines Arena, wrapping up the Eastern Conference finals in six games.
The Pacers had worked all season to earn the No. 1 seed for what they anticipated would be Game 7 in their arena.
But it never happened. The Heat silenced Stephenson, who served as the series' odd irritant, and advanced to the NBA Finals for the fourth straight year.
Only two other franchises have ever accomplished that feat, and both are basketball royalty -- the Boston Celtics, who did it twice, and the Los Angeles Lakers.
No team, other than the Heat, has done it in any of the past three decades.
"This is an amazing moment," Heat guard Dwyane Wade said. "For a lifetime, this will fulfill us."
The Heat did this, in part, by holding out Wade for nearly one-third of the regular season, working hard to ensure he would be healthy for the playoffs. And, so far, he has been.
The Heat did this, in part, by manipulating its roster and turning to various role players at different points in the season. Small forward Rashard Lewis in the past few games was only the latest example.
And the Heat did this, in large part, because of the majesty of forward LeBron James. He was coming off a seven-point performance in Game 5 -- the lowest output of his playoff career -- and yet came back strong with 25 points in just 32 minutes.
Pacers coach Frank Vogel, in his postgame comments, compared James to former Bulls star Michael Jordan and likened the Heat to those great Chicago teams of the MJ Era.
James said he was honored by that sentiment.
"Anytime I hear my name in the same breath with those legends, it's very humbling," he said. "(For Wade and I), two kids from the inner city, we never thought we'd get to this point."
Friday's win lacked any drama past the Pacers' 9-2 start. The Heat closed the first quarter on a 22-4 run and led 60-34 at halftime. Miami led by as many as 37 points.
Pacers forward Paul George, who had 37 points in a Game 5 win, was held to one point at halftime. He had 28 second-half points in what was, in essence, garbage time.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was asked if he saw such a lopsided score coming.
"I'd love to say that I did, but you just don't know," he said. "I knew we had a very angry group (after losing Game 5). I knew at least that our guys would bring a very competitive spirit."
Indiana's Stephenson, meanwhile, was the focal point once again when it came to antics and even a hard foul.
In the first quarter, he made a three-pointer and was hit in the face by James, who was face-guarding him. No foul was called.
A couple minutes later, Stephenson -- deliberately but lightly -- touched James' face. James objected but no foul was called.
With 8:47 left in the second quarter, Stephenson hit Heat guard Norris Cole with an open hand to the face. Stephenson was ostensibly going for the ball, but he was way out of control and was assessed a flagrant foul.
Spoelstra said Cole suffered a bloody nose, and the coach called the foul "unnecessarily excessive."
Stephenson, meanwhile, was remorseful.
"It was a loose ball," Stephenson said. "(Cole) got there faster than me, but I was going for the ball. I accidentally hit him in the face. I know it looked bad, but I didn't do it on purpose."
A couple of minutes later, Heat forward Shane Battier ran over Stephenson, sending a message that enough was enough.
Now the Heat await Thursday's start of the NBA Finals against either the San Antonio Spurs, which would be a rematch of last year's championship, or the Oklahoma City, a rematch of 2012.
Either way, the Heat will be facing a team intent on revenge.
Either way, the Heat will face a team that will surely be more respectful in tone than Stephenson and the Pacers.
And either way, the Heat -- and James -- figure to be a very tough out.