NBA

For the Finals: Pacers, Heat to meet in Game 7

Share This Story

   
 

MIAMI (AP)

As the final horn in a Game 6 loss to the Indiana Pacers was sounding, LeBron James walked toward several of his Miami Heat teammates to shake some hands and share a couple of quick words.

His message was clear: Get ready for Game 7.

Here comes the ultimate game. To the winner, a trip to the NBA Finals. To the loser, an offseason loaded with regret. It's that simple now for the champion Heat and the confident Pacers, who meet in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals Monday night in Miami - a perk the Heat earned by finishing with the league's best record this season.

''Each and every year there are 30 teams that would love to be a part of this, to have one game to advance to the NBA Finals,'' James said. ''And there's two teams that's in this position. And it's something that you can't substitute, this feeling. You can't substitute the atmosphere that we're going to be in on Monday night for both teams. We should all cherish this moment.''

When it's over Monday, only one club will be cherishing the outcome.

For the Heat, it's a chance to move into the finals for the third straight year and keep hope alive of winning a second straight title. For the Pacers, it's a chance to cap what would surely go into the books as one of the biggest upsets in NBA playoff history, considering that they finished 16 1/2 games behind the Heat in the regular season.

None of that matters much now. The Pacers have beaten Miami five of nine times this season. They need a sixth, or else it was all for naught.

''It is a closeout game and an elimination game,'' Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. ''Our approach right now is not if we lose we're out - our approach is if we win, we get to the finals. And that's what we're going for. We're going to give our best shot and try to win the Eastern Conference championship.''

Monday's winner will open the NBA Finals on Thursday against San Antonio.

History suggests that the odds are long for the Pacers. Since the NBA went to its current playoff format in 1984, home teams are 16-2 in Game 7's played in the conference finals or NBA Finals.

Then again, the Pacers were colossal underdogs heading into this series, and if it wasn't for a last-second collapse at the end of Game 1, they probably would already be East champs.

''It's going to be tough in their arena,'' Pacers guard Lance Stephenson said. ''We've just got to bring it. If we play aggressive like we do at home, we can get the `W.'''

Indiana headed to Miami with enough luggage for an eight-day trip. If the Pacers win Game 7, they're headed to San Antonio, with no time to make a return swing through Indianapolis along the way.

''We believe we can win the series. We always have,'' Vogel said. ''We haven't been perfect this series, but we're going to need to be near perfect to win a Game 7 there.''

The Pacers had an off-the-court distraction to address Sunday. Center Roy Hibbert apologized and was fined $75,000 by the NBA after using a gay slur in his postgame comments on Saturday, along with a profanity to describe members of the media.

''They were disrespectful and offensive and not a reflection of my personal views,'' Hibbert was quoted as saying in the statement released by the team. ''I used a slang term that is not appropriate in any setting, private or public, and the language I used definitely has no place in a public forum, especially over live television.''

NBA Commissioner David Stern said the fine was necessary ''to reinforce that such offensive comments will not be tolerated.''

Vogel said he spoke with Hibbert about the matter Sunday, saying ''he obviously made a great mistake.''

On the court, though, Hibbert has had nothing to apologize for, dominating play inside while the Heat are struggling in countless ways.

Dwyane Wade's sore right knee - which has been an issue for about three months now - is not getting better anytime soon, and he's stopped even wanting to discuss how it's affecting his game. Chris Bosh said he needed to get back in the gym Sunday and regain some lost rhythm. Wade is averaging 12 points on 32 percent shooting in his last three games, Bosh just 6.3 points on 24 percent shooting in that same span.

''Just got to come out and play to win,'' Wade said. ''It's one game for both teams.''

Said James, when asked about the other two parts of Miami's Big Three: ''I mean, we can state the obvious. They're both struggling.''

They're hardly the only Heat players who picked the wrong time of year to go into a slide. Ray Allen is shooting 13 for 46 in this series, Shane Battier is at 2 for 16, and they're a combined 9 for 39 from 3-point range against the Pacers.

Mike Miller gave the Heat a big second-half boost as they tried to rally from a big deficit in Game 6, and Heat coach Erik Spoelstra suggested that Miller could get some time in the series finale.

''Everything is on the table,'' Spoelstra said.

One roster tweak the Heat will make on Monday: Chris Andersen's one-game suspension for pushing Indiana's Tyler Hansbrough is now complete, and the Heat backup big man - who is 15 for 15 from the field in the series - will be available for Game 7.

So even on the cusp of elimination Sunday, Spoelstra was decidedly upbeat.

He lauded the Pacers and insisted that this series going the distance is a testament to the level of competition. He said the Heat didn't mind being pushed to the limit, and that his team would look at being in a Game 7 as ''a treasure.''

''You feel alive when you're tested, when there's adversity, when you have to reveal your character,'' Spoelstra said. ''Then when you do with that collectively, that is a special moment and a special feeling. There's nothing like it in pro sports ... arguably two of the top words in pro sports is `Game 7.'''

The Heat had to win a Game 7 in the East finals at home last season, so they understand the pressure that will be there on Monday night. But in his postgame remarks Saturday, James was smiling, laughing on occasion, showing no signs of strain even though a season of the highest expectations is on the brink of ending earlier than anyone would find acceptable.

How he handles everything on Monday will probably determine if the Heat live to play another day in these playoffs.

''I probably will not be able to relax until the game starts,'' James said. ''You know, it's an opportunity for us. And like I said, that's what we had the best record in the league for. If we didn't take care of business on the road at some point in the playoffs, we could always fall back on this. We hate to be in this position, but it's an opportunity and we look forward to it on Monday.''

---

AP Sports Writer Michael Marot in Indianapolis contributed.

Tagged: Pacers, Heat, LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Roy Hibbert

Related Stories

Member Comments

Please note by clicking on "Post comment" you acknowledge that you have read the Terms of Use and the comment you are posting is in compliance with such terms. Be Polite. Inappropriate posts may be removed by the moderator.

powered by


NBA Videos

NBA considering mid-season Vegas tournament? Posted: Jul 16, 2014
Adam Silver confirms the NBA has engaged in early conversations about the possib...

LeBron and Blatt 'will work together beautifully' Posted: Jul 14, 2014
Cavaliers head coach David Blatt on LeBron James' decision to return to Clevelan...

LeBron's back and so are the Cavs Posted: Jul 11, 2014
FOX Sports 1's Gary Payton weighs-in on LeBron's decision to return to Cleveland...

More Than Sports on MSN

Fox Sports Store

    itemName itemURL imageSrc price itemDescription
    adidas Blake Griffin Los Angeles Clippers Revolution 30 Performance Jersey - Red http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Los_Angeles_Clippers/browse/featuredproduct/491845/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_491000/ff_491845_xl.jpg&w=100 59.95 adidas Blake Griffin Los Angeles Clippers Revolution 30 Performance Jersey - Red
    adidas LeBron James Miami Heat Revolution 30 Swingman Performance Jersey-Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Miami_Heat/browse/featuredproduct/498609/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_498000/ff_498609_xl.jpg&w=100 89.95 adidas LeBron James Miami Heat Revolution 30 Swingman Performance Jersey-Black
    adidas Carmelo Anthony New York Knicks Revolution 30 Swingman Performance Jersey - Royal Blue http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_New_York_Knicks/browse/featuredproduct/620470/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_620000/ff_620470_xl.jpg&w=100 49.99 adidas Carmelo Anthony New York Knicks Revolution 30 Swingman Performance Jersey..
    Mitchell & Ness San Antonio Spurs Black Solid Script Snapback Adjustable Hat http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_San_Antonio_Spurs/browse/featuredproduct/692239/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_692000/ff_692239_xl.jpg&w=100 25.95 Mitchell & Ness San Antonio Spurs Black Solid Script Snapback Adjustable Hat
    Majestic Kobe Bryant Los Angeles Lakers Logo Man T-Shirt - Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Los_Angeles_Lakers/browse/featuredproduct/851828/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_851000/ff_851828_xl.jpg&w=100 23.95 Majestic Kobe Bryant Los Angeles Lakers Logo Man T-Shirt - Black
    Majestic Kevin Durant Oklahoma City Thunder Logo Man T-Shirt - White http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Oklahoma_City_Thunder/browse/featuredproduct/851842/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_851000/ff_851842_xl.jpg&w=100 23.95 Majestic Kevin Durant Oklahoma City Thunder Logo Man T-Shirt - White
    adidas Miami Heat 2012 NBA Eastern Conference Champions Locker Room T-Shirt - White http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Miami_Heat/browse/featuredproduct/890174/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_890000/ff_890174_xl.jpg&w=100 21.95 adidas Miami Heat 2012 NBA Eastern Conference Champions Locker Room T-Shirt - Wh..
    adidas Oklahoma City Thunder 2012 NBA Western Conference Champions Locker Room Flex Hat - Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Oklahoma_City_Thunder/browse/featuredproduct/890384/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_890000/ff_890384_xl.jpg&w=100 19.99 adidas Oklahoma City Thunder 2012 NBA Western Conference Champions Locker Room F..