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Heat rise to the occasion in NBA’s biggest game of the year

Jun 4, 2013, 2:22 AM EDT

You will read plenty of stats that explain why the Heat beat the Pacers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Miami outrebounded Indiana for the first time this series. The Pacers turned the ball over more than any other game this series. Indiana hadn’t shot so poorly on both 2-pointers and 3-pointers in any game this series.

But my favorite number from this game doesn’t explain why the Heat beat the Pacers. It shows why the Heat beat the Pacers.

Miami, at one point tonight, had made 24-of-25 free throws.

That’s about five more made free throws than the players who attempted them, based on regular-season percentages, would be expected to make. The Heat certainly didn’t need the five extra points during their 99-76 win, but the level of focus necessary to make 24-of-25 free throws is rather astounding.

Despite 40 games with enough attempts to qualify, the Heat didn’t make 24-of-25 free throws at any point of a single game all season. And now they were doing it in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals? Incredible.

The Heat played at a level they hadn’t played all playoffs, and that’s why they won. Their free-throw percentage didn’t dip until they were already up 20 late, and it was OK to let their focus slip.

I don’t mean to disparage the Pacers, and I don’t believe the Heat coasted before tonight. They were playing a seventh game because they were approximately even through six games.

But there’s a level a Game 7 can extract from the players participating that a Game 6 cannot. It’s only human that players summon more from within themselves when moment calls for it. With the exception of only those who possess the rare mental acuity that gives them the ability to fool their own minds, maximum effort in Game 7 is higher than than maximum effort in Game 6.

In these biggest moments, the Heat have players who’ve proven their maximum level is supremely high.

LeBron James scored 48 points, including Cleveland’s final 25, in a double-overtime win over the Pistons in the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals. Dwyane Wade averaged 34.7 points in the 2006 NBA Finals. Ray Allen has scored more points in a single playoff game (51) than any active player, and he set an NBA Finals record by making eight straight 3-pointers.

And here were those those three were carrying Miami in Game 7.

LeBron James (32 points, eight rebounds, four assists and two steals) hit numbers nobody has in a Game 7 in 25 years. Dwyane Wade (21 points) produced his highest-scoring game of since Game 2 of the first round. Ray Allen (10 points, 3-of-5 3-point shooting) shook off a 7-of-24 start to the series from beyond the arc.

The Heat never scored more than seven straight points in Game 7. They didn’t need a longer sustained run, because when Indiana fought back, Miami wasn’t fazed. The Heat have players who just know how to lock into these games.

There have been six Game 7s in the last two years. Miami has played in two and holds the two wins by the largest margins.

The Heat can win under many circumstances. But games like this are right their wheelhouse.

  1. logisticalvoices - Jun 4, 2013 at 2:54 AM

    Top five things I want to see from the Heat in the finals:
    5. Birdman to get a tattoo at halfcourt during a timeout.
    4. Chris Bosh to cry when interviewed by Craig Saiger.
    3. Dwayne Wade to hit someone in the jewels and admit that he did it on purpose afterwards.
    2. Heat fans to arrive before the first quarter ends and cheer properly without being prompted by the jumbotron.
    1. LeBron to flop when contact is made, because, you know, he’s never done that before.

    I think you’ll see a ratings spike if we can make these happen.

  2. canehouse - Jun 4, 2013 at 6:13 AM

    As bad as the national media made it seem… Miami never trailed in the series. I had no doubts that Miami would show up. Great job by Indiana… but they had to be stellar to drop the champs in a game 7 at home.

    • WatchThis - Jun 4, 2013 at 10:04 AM

      This is the Finals we all wanted, well, except for the Spurs.

      • gostlcards5 - Jun 4, 2013 at 1:17 PM

        I wouldn’t say that….I would say except for Manu Ginobili.

  3. s2mikey - Jun 4, 2013 at 6:27 AM

    It’s just like Cleveland all over again. Lebron doing everything and the rest of the team standing around.

  4. 1972wasalongtimeago - Jun 4, 2013 at 6:29 AM

    They’d been in their caves for a year, but they were all coming out yesterday weren’t they? Simmons, Stein, Windhorst, Skip, Wilbon, Barkley, Barry, Skip, and even Colin. Colin? You’ve been there for us all year, but yes, et tu Colin? Et tu?

    Time to go back in your ditches A-Holes. Until of course the Heat get called for a travel or they miss a 3. Then they’ll all be back.

    And if you want some real idiocy, go to yesterday’s columns on this website and read the comments.

    The Heat are a once in a lifetime team. Pacers were such a bad matchup with elite talent at the very areas the Heat were vulnerable. They get a ton of credit. But playing as well as they did. To be as dominant as they were. To have the Heat looking way out of sorts for most of the series. For as badly as the Pacers made Wade, Bosh, Allen, & Battier look all series. The Heat never even trailed in the series, and the Heat beat them at their own game. A very well deserved trip to the Finals for the Heat. Very very very happy right now.

    • davidly - Jun 4, 2013 at 7:29 AM

      You’re absolutely right and what you’re talking about is nothing new. Every year amnesia sets in as it relates to the meaning of the seven game series. And the masses being what they are tend to want to slam the one team instead of giving the other team credit where it’s due.

      Credit to both teams. All the belittling regarding the players’ skills and/or effort done throughout this series was logorrhea.

    • abasketballthing - Jun 4, 2013 at 1:10 PM

      You read and listen to a lot of people who don’t know much about basketball. Don’t waste your time on them.

      • 1972wasalongtimeago - Jun 4, 2013 at 1:54 PM

        If you want to read something written by somone who knows nothing about basketball, just read the comment directly below this one.

      • jimeejohnson - Jun 4, 2013 at 5:36 PM

        Better off just skipping that arrogant New Yawker’s comments. He’s hate incarnate.

  5. cantonbound13 - Jun 4, 2013 at 6:36 AM

    You can actually hear the bandwagoners hopping back on.

    • HotHotHeat - Jun 4, 2013 at 7:09 AM

      U mad bro?

      • bucrightoff - Jun 4, 2013 at 8:41 AM

        No, he’s just guaranteed to be a Knick fan in 24 months. Will you be a Heat fan? Depends if LeBron opts out or not.

      • nard100 - Jun 4, 2013 at 9:41 AM

        I hate Richard Sherman, but that was an awesome comeback.

    • leahcima1 - Jun 4, 2013 at 8:45 AM

      Ah we get to hear from the cantonjerk13 loser. Well cantonjerk13 looks like you eat poop all summer, – again. There is plenty of room on our bandwagon. You can clean hose poop for your keep. LOL Just curious, have you ever had a winner?

      • cantonbound13 - Jun 4, 2013 at 10:34 AM

        Not just the bandwagoners that are back on, the classless, angry losers that need to turn to basketball to escape from their sad life are back also. Welcome back leahser!

  6. slystone111 - Jun 4, 2013 at 6:52 AM

    Excellent! Another chance for some PBT hero worship of LeBron James!

  7. canehouse - Jun 4, 2013 at 7:27 AM

    cantonpoo… beat it! You’re a lowlife piece of garbage.

    • cantonbound13 - Jun 4, 2013 at 7:39 AM

      Welcome back all the classless bandwagoners!

    • leahcima1 - Jun 4, 2013 at 8:46 AM

      That is an insult to other low life garbage.

    • jimeejohnson - Jun 4, 2013 at 5:37 PM

      Typical New Yawk a$$hole. Nothing more.

  8. vstyle23 - Jun 4, 2013 at 7:56 AM

    Man y’all are so easily amused. Listen, Wade gave his last in that game and the Heat have no idea the storm there about to run into. The Spurs as always are so underrated but will shine so Bright. May take a game for them to get going and they’ll still when during that process. Team ball trumps me ball, watch.

    • bcwildcat24 - Jun 4, 2013 at 10:50 AM

      Delusional on so many levels.

    • fanofthegame79 - Jun 4, 2013 at 1:31 PM

      I remember everyone said the same thing about the Spurs last year until they ran into a more athletic team called the Thunder. And we saw how the Heat handled the Thunder. This series won’t be that close. Heat in 6. The Heat will wins games 1 and 2 at home. They’ll win at least 1 in San Antonio, and this series will be over in Miami in game 6. Back to Back champions and this will go down as one of the best seasons for the Heat.

  9. jjones314 - Jun 4, 2013 at 8:20 AM

    Miami plays “me ball”???

    What are you talking about? LBJ is one of the best passers in the game. How is that “me ball”??

    People are so jealous of Miami they just make up idiotic comments

  10. jzone954 - Jun 4, 2013 at 9:22 AM

    What happened to my man Mr Wright? Haven’t heard from that dudes in WEEKS. You know….the guy which canton bound agreed the “Knicks were built to beat the Heat?” Giggle,giggle

    • bigrele - Jun 4, 2013 at 10:48 AM

      Lmao! You gotta give it to that jerkwad MrWright, at least he’s smart enough ta know when he’s beaten; cantonbutt on the other hand is just pathetic, he’s your typical sore losing pathetic troll who despite being beaten & flogged just refuses to smarten up. He’s the one Katt Williams referred to when he said its a haters job to hate! So let him do his g**damn job & hate! lol, Hey Canton’s a glutten for punishment what can ya say! :D

    • hehateme2 - Jun 4, 2013 at 11:11 AM

      What’s the life span on a troll?

  11. bigrele - Jun 4, 2013 at 10:44 AM

    To all those pathetic pitiful lowlife losing haters out there that just knew & predicted the Pacers to win: SSSSSSSSSSHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!! Lmao! Do us & yourself a favor & go have a Coke & a smile & STFU! lol

  12. hehateme2 - Jun 4, 2013 at 11:13 AM

    This is the way the HEAT should have played all series. The extra energy didn’t need to be held back until game 7. The paces were ill-equipped to handle the HEAT team seen last night. But, most other teams would have failed as well.

    This should have been over sooner.

  13. jimeejohnson - Jun 4, 2013 at 5:39 PM

    Pacers took the Heat to game 7. They played the Heat as tough as possible, but in the end, the Pacers just didn’t have what it takes, especially to win on the road. Pacers have nothing to be ashamed of, while the Heat have a lot to be proud of. Finals are going to be great!

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