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Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade (3) reacts after an offensive foul was called against the Orlando Magic during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, March 18, 2012, in Miami. The Heat won 91-81. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
The Miami Heat have finished off the Indiana Pacers. The Heat won Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals 105-93, earning a berth in the Eastern Conference Finals for the second straight season.
Dwyane Wade gave one of the best playoff performances of his career, scoring 41 points with 10 rebounds. 20 of his points came in the second quarter, when the Heat erased a 7-point deficit. His 26 first-half points were the most ever in his career in the playoffs, and the most by any player in the first half in the 2012 playoffs. LeBron James contributed 28 points and 7 assists.
The Heat had to play without Udonis Haslem, who served a one-game suspension for his hard foul committed against Tyler Hansborough in Game 5. Shane Battier played much of the game in his place.
Mario Chalmers contributed 15 points, while Mike Miller scored 12 points off the bench, all coming from three-point range. Miller had been largely ineffective over most of the series, his reawakening provided the Heat with the scoring that had come from Haslem in Games 4 and 5. Both Miller and Chalmers hit a three-pointer in the final seconds of the third quarter, as the Heat went on a 9-2 run that put the Pacers out of reach for good.
Wade's 20-point second quarter could not have come at a better time for the Heat. Indiana opened the game on a roll, taking an early 11-point lead on 63% shooting. Indiana finished the first quarter with a 28-21 lead. Miami was able to get back in the game after that, but Indiana still led 53-51 at the half.
David West led all Pacers with 24 points. Five different Pacers scored in double figures. The Pacers had one of their best games shooting in the series, going 34 of 70 from the field. But their 22 turnovers plagued Indiana, nine on Heat steals.
Indiana exits having posed a tough challenge to Miami. Pacers coach Frank Vogel loudly challenged the idea that his team was an underdog heading into the series, and his players said they were not scared of Miami. After they took a 2-1 series lead, those words began to look prophetic.
But Wade and James were able to wrest control of the series back from Indiana, combining for 70 points in Game 4 and 58 points in Game 5. It is easy to forget now that the series is over, but the Heat were in genuine crisis mode after Game 3.
The Heat will find out their next opponent when the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers play Game 7 of their Eastern Conference Semis series on Saturday night. The Heat beat both teams on their road to the NBA Finals in 2011.
Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals will be played Monday in Miami.