MIAMI (AP) — Their season, their legacy, their reign atop the NBA was all at stake, and the Miami Heat responded to all of that in a manner befitting champions.
With a blowout.
It's onto the NBA Finals for the Heat after they put away the Indiana Pacers, who saw their hopes of a storybook upset simply fall apart in a hurry.
LeBron James scored 32 points and grabbed eight rebounds, ailing Dwyane Wade matched his postseason high with 21 points, and the Heat ran away from the Pacers 99-76 in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals on Monday night.
The Heat earned the right to play the San Antonio Spurs in a series that starts Thursday night in Miami.
Miami led by as many as 28 points, a shocking amount for a series that had an aggregate score of Heat 569, Pacers 564 entering Monday night. The Heat actually trailed by six in the early going, were still down 21-19 after the first quarter and it was starting to look like it was going to be one of those down-to-the-wire nights.
Not even close.
James exited with 5:08 left, shaking retired soccer star David Beckham's hand as he made his way to the Heat bench for a relatively subdued celebration. Not long afterward, security personnel started what's become a familiar task in Miami — surrounding the court and stretching out a yellow rope, preparing to hold people at bay for the looming on-court trophy presentation.
More than a few people didn't stick around to see the East title formally presented. After all, it's an all-or-nothing season for the Heat — and this trophy isn't the one that will satisfy the Heat.
Ray Allen added 10 points for Miami, which won its 78th game of the season, matching the 11th-best, single-season total in NBA history.
Roy Hibbert scored 18 points for the Pacers, who got 14 from David West, 13 from George Hill and 10 from Lance Stephenson. All-Star Paul George was held to seven points on 2-for-9 shooting and fouled out early in the fourth quarter.