MIAMI — The Miami Heat became just the second franchise to win four straight Eastern Conference championships, routing the Indiana Pacers 117-92 in Game 6 of the series Friday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Heat forward LeBron James, who was coming off a seven-point performance in Game 5 — the lowest output of his playoff career — came back strong with 25 points in just 32 minutes.
Miami, which improved to 8-0 at home in this year’s playoffs, also got 25 points from forward Chris Bosh in a game that was virtually over by halftime.
The Heat won the best-of-seven series 4-2 and advanced to the NBA Finals, which will begin Thursday at either Oklahoma City or San Antonio.
Miami will get five days in between games to rest.
The Heat joins the Eastern Conference’s Boston Celtics and the West’s Los Angeles Lakers as the only franchises to make four straight NBA Finals. Both of those franchises accomplished the feat in the 1980s. The Celtics also went to 10 straight Finals in the 1950s-1960s, winning eight in a row.
Indiana entered Friday with a 3-0 record in elimination games this season. But instead of continuing that streak, the Pacers saw their season end at the hands of the Heat for the third straight year.
Pacers forward Paul George, who had 37 points in Game 5, had 29 points Friday, but he had just one point in the first half when the game was still somewhat in doubt.
The Pacers were also led by forward David West (16 points) and guard Lance Stephenson (11 points).
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 out of control and was assessed a flagrant foul.
A couple of minutes later, Heat forward Shane Battier ran over Stephenson. Once again, the referees let it go.
But it didn’t matter in terms of the result. The Pacers, who worked all season to get the No. 1 seed and home-court advantage, never got the Game 7 at their arena that they had anticipated.
Indiana got off to a 9-2 start, but Miami dominated the rest of the first quarter to take a 24-13 lead. The Heat closed the quarter on a 22-4 run, and the Pacers missed 14 of their final 15 shots.
Miami continued to dominate in the second quarter and went into halftime leading 60-34. The Heat outrebounded the Pacers 23-13 in the first half and also had more points in the paint, 32-12.
NOTES: Heat C Chris Andersen (leg bruise) played Friday after missing two games. … With Andersen back, F Michael Beasley was a healthy scratch. … Heat G Dwyane Wade on Pacers G Lance Stephenson’s Game 5 antics, which included listening to a Miami huddle and blowing in the ear of F LeBron James: “Our guys wouldn’t do that.” … Stephenson’s behavior brings to mind New York Knicks guard J.R. Smith, who was fined earlier this season for untying the shoelaces of two opponents. … Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said there was a reason why his team practiced Thursday, which was a travel day. “I wanted that anger (from the Game 5 loss) and frustration and emotion to come out (in practice),” Spoelstra said. “On Friday, I want clear heads.” … Pacers C Roy Hibbert was fined $5,000 for flopping in Game 5. Stephenson was fined $10,000 for the same violation of the rules — he was penalized double because it was his second offense.
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