Heat back in NBA Finals
By now, the Miami Heat know how the on-court celebration works. Someone distributes new hats, another hands out new T-shirts, someone hands them a gleaming trophy.
Amid it all, LeBron James simply beamed.
"We won't take this for granted," James said.
For the fourth straight time, the Heat are Eastern Conference champions - and for the third straight year, they had to eliminate the Indiana Pacers on the way to getting there. James and Chris Bosh each scored 25 points, and Miami rolled past the Pacers, 117-92, on Friday night to win the East finals in six games.
"We know we still have work to do," James said.
That work starts Thursday night in either San Antonio or Oklahoma City. The NBA Finals start in the city of the West champion.
Miami trailed by 9-2 before ripping off 54 of the next 75 points to erase any doubt by halftime. The Heat set a franchise record with their 11th straight home postseason win, going back to the last two games of last season's NBA Finals, leading by 37 at one point.
"The group loves to compete and loves to compete at the highest level, and be pushed to new levels," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Indiana led the East for much of the regular season, one where the Pacers were fueled by the memory of losing Game 7 of the East finals in Miami a year ago. So they spent this season with a clear goal: toppling Miami as king of the East.
The Pacers were two games better in the regular season.
They were two games worse in the postseason. Game 7, this time, would have been in Indianapolis. The Pacers just had no shot at making it happen, not on this night.