INDIANAPOLIS — Game 6 of the Heat-Pacers Eastern Conference semifinal series left Miami bloodied, stitched and smiling.
When the final buzzer sounded Thursday, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James hugged in a silent arena. Or maybe they weren't hugging. Maybe they were holding each other up after carrying the Heat past Indiana this final time, ousting the Pacers 105-93.
"Are they tough enough?" TNT analyst Charles Barkley, among others, asked of Wade and James when the Heat fell behind after three games.
Tough enough. Strong enough. And most of all, plenty good enough even without their third wheel, injured Chris Bosh.
Hello, Boston or Philadelphia in the East final.
Thursday, Wade scored 26 — in the first half. He finished with a game-high 41, with 10 rebounds.
Wasn't it just yesterday he scored five in Game 3 and everyone, including Wade, was wondering what happened?
James had 28 points, six rebounds and seven assists.
Miami was undermanned with Udonis Haslem suspended because of his Game 5 flagrant foul on Pacers forward Tyler Hansbrough. The Heat fell behind early but kept its composure. This game had none of the violence of Game 5 and was competitive almost the entire way, even after the Heat took a 10-point lead after three quarters.
After the Game 3 loss, Wade and James took control. Wade averaged 32.8 points in the final three games, James 32.7 points and 11.7 rebounds.
"We had our whole focus on Derrick Rose last year (in the playoffs), and it's like having two of them out there," Indiana coach Frank Vogel said.
Wade said: "I think we understood, especially when Chris went out, we had to do a little more. We had to step up and do a little better.''
Indiana played the only card it had, trying to outflank the Heat's mind and rough up Wade and James. Before the series, Vogel called the Heat "the biggest flopping team in the NBA."
Thursday, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said the Pacers were head-hunting James and Wade all season and the league condoned it.
Then the game began, and none of that mattered. Wade had the biggest scoring half of his playoff career. Mario Chalmers (15 points) and former Gator Mike Miller (12) added support.
"Are they tough enough?"
That was one of the questions for this team as it lost Bosh, who went down in the series and could have had an unwanted legacy.
"We weren't going to let that happen," Wade said Thursday.
MIAMI (105): Battier 1-7 0-0 2, James 12-23 4-5 28, Turiaf 0-1 0-0 0, Chalmers 4-7 4-6 15, Wade 17-25 7-8 41, Anthony 2-3 1-1 5, Miller 4-8 0-0 12, Cole 0-1 0-0 0, J.Jones 1-1 0-0 2, Howard 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 41-76 16-20 105.
INDIANA (93): Granger 6-14 2-2 15, West 10-16 4-6 24, Hibbert 5-8 2-2 12, Hill 7-13 3-5 18, George 4-10 0-0 11, Barbosa 0-1 0-0 0, Collison 1-3 2-2 5, Hansbrough 0-4 3-4 3, Amundson 1-1 0-0 2, D.Jones 0-0 3-3 3. Totals 34-70 19-24 93.
Miami 21 30 28 26— 105
Indiana 28 25 16 24— 93
3-Point Goals—Miami 7-20 (Miller 4-7, Chalmers 3-4, Cole 0-1, James 0-3, Battier 0-5), Indiana 6-17 (George 3-7, Collison 1-2, Hill 1-3, Granger 1-4, Barbosa 0-1). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Miami 33 (Wade 10), Indiana 47 (George 10). Assists—Miami 16 (James 7), Indiana 18 (Hill 5). Total Fouls—Miami 20, Indiana 22. Technicals—George, West, Indiana defensive three second. A—18,165 (18,165).
76ers-celtics: Julius Erving strolled through the 76ers locker room Wednesday as Philadelphia celebrated beating the Celtics to set up an East semifinal Game 7 in Boston.
"It brings back all the memories," the Hall of Famer said after the Sixers forced the first seventh game between the old rivals since he teamed with Andrew Toney to lead Philadelphia past Boston and into the 1982 NBA Finals. "It seemed like it always came down to them. Coming out of the East, (it) was always Boston or Philly."
Both teams took the day off Thursday to rest.
"That's all we wanted, was to win and give ourselves a chance to go into Boston and see what happens in Game 7," Sixers coach Doug Collins said. "I want more. We're going to get greedy."
The Sixers and Celtics met 12 times in the playoffs from 1953-69 and five times from 1977-85.
all-nba team: The Heat's James had the most points in voting by coaches, 596. The rest of the first team and their points: Thunder forward Kevin Durant, 591; Magic center Dwight Howard, 476; Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, 568, and Clippers guard Chris Paul, 484. Bryant joined Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Elgin Baylor, Bob Cousy, Michael Jordan, Bob Pettit and Jerry West with 10 selections to the first team. Karl Malone is the leader with 11.
no gm interest, shaq says: Shaquille O'Neal denied interest in the Magic's GM opening. The ex-Orlando center and current TNT analyst said he was "clearly intrigued'' when he heard about the opening but "I feel very fortunate to be with TNT and to have the best job in sports.''
In other news, amid a report the Magic will listen to offers for Howard after the draft lottery is set next week, Howard said he had nothing to do with the decision to fire coach Stan Van Gundy: "I hate to see anyone lose their job. .…We had our ups and downs, but for the most part we had one goal, to win a championship in Orlando."