MIAMI — As the final horn sounded in Saturday's Game 6 loss to the Pacers, LeBron James walked toward several of his Heat teammates to shake some hands and share a couple of quick words.
His message was clear: Get ready for Game 7.
Here comes the ultimate game. For the winner, a trip to the NBA Finals. For the loser, an offseason loaded with regret. It's that simple now for the champion Heat and the confident Pacers, who meet in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final tonight in Miami — a perk the Heat earned with the league's best record this season.
"Each and every year there are 30 teams that would love to be a part of this, to have one game to advance to the NBA Finals," James said. "And there's two teams that's in this position. And it's something that you can't substitute, this feeling. You can't substitute the atmosphere that we're going to be in on (tonight) for both teams. We should all cherish this moment."
For Miami, it's a chance to reach the Finals for the third straight year. For Indiana, it's a chance to cap what would surely be one of the biggest upsets in NBA playoff history, considering that 16½ games separated these teams in the regular season.
None of that matters now. Indiana has beaten Miami five of nine times this season.
"It is a closeout game and an elimination game," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. "Our approach right now is not if we lose we're out — our approach is if we win, we get to the Finals."
History suggests the odds are long for the Pacers. Since the NBA went to its current playoff format in 1984, home teams are 16-2 in Game 7s in the conference finals or NBA Finals.
Hibbert apologizes, pays for slur of gays
The league fined Pacers center Roy Hibbert $75,000 for using a gay slur and cursing during his news conference after Game 6.
Hibbert apologized for the comments and reached out via Twitter to Jason Collins, who recently became the first active NBA player to reveal he's gay.
"They were disrespectful and offensive and not a reflection of my personal views," Hibbert said in a statement. "I used a slang term that is not appropriate in any setting, private or public, and the language I used definitely has no place in a public forum, especially over live television."
On Saturday, Hibbert ended a response to a question about his defense on James with "no homo," a phrase that implies fear of appearing gay. He also called the media an offensive term.
Blaylock charges: Former star Mookie Blaylock was charged with driving with a suspended license and failing to stay in his lane in a head-on crash that killed a woman, police said. Jonesboro, Ga., police Chief Franklin Allen said authorities wanted to talk to Blaylock, 46, but were waiting for Blaylock to recover from his injuries in a hospital. He was listed in serious condition. Friday's crash killed Monica Murphy, 43. Her husband was driving and suffered a broken ankle.
Heat 3, Pacers 3
Game 1: Heat 103, Pacers 102 OT
Game 2: Pacers 97, Heat 93
Game 3: Heat 114, Pacers 96
Game 4: Pacers 99, Heat 92
Game 5: Heat 90, Pacers 79
Saturday: Pacers 91, Heat 77
Tonight: at Miami, 8:30, TNT
Spurs 4, Grizzlies 0
Spurs vs. Heat or Pacers
TV: Ch. 28
Thursday: 9 p.m.
June 9: 8 p.m.
June 11: 9 p.m.
June 13: 9 p.m.
June 16: 8 p.m.*
June 18: 9 p.m.*
June 20: 9 p.m.*
Note: If the Heat advances, Miami has homecourt and hosts Game 1. If the Pacers advance, the Spurs have homecourt and host Game 1.
* If necessary