INDIANAPOLIS — This was Dwyane Wade's very best — his Ninth Symphony, his Ulysses, his roundhouse, double-legged dropkick from the top rope.
In a rough-and-tumble second-round series that featured blood and flagrant fouls, cheap shots and suspensions, Wade delivered the final blow Thursday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
He scored 41 points in the decisive game of the series, leading the Heat into the Eastern Conference finals with a 105-93 victory against the Pacers.
Although the series was peppered with hard fouls and trash talk throughout, there was none of that in the final game. There was just a whole lot of Wade doing things that reminded all that watched of the 2006 NBA Finals and delivering a performance that will live forever.
LeBron James, who smartly deferred to Wade on a night that Wade could hardly miss, called his teammate "spectacular from the beginning to the end." James was absolutely right about that. Wade's 41 points came on 17 of 25 shooting. He scored 20 points in the second quarter alone, tying a Heat postseason franchise record, and also had 10 rebounds.
"All I did was continue to play basketball the way I always have," Wade said. "Sometimes you struggle. So, I understand when it comes to offense it doesn't always go in."
Wade, of course, struggled mightily in Game 3, going scoreless in the first half and finishing with just five points. He bounced back from that game with 30 points in Game 4 but saved the best for the Heat's close-out game.
James wasn't bad either, finishing with 28 points on 12 of 23 from the field to go along with seven assists and six rebounds. The reigning MVP, James was voted to his fifth All-NBA First Team before Thursday's game.
"These guys played at such a high level that I don't know if anyone can beat them," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said.
Once seemingly on the brink of melting down in this series, the Heat finished off the Pacers with three consecutive victories, including two that came here in Indiana in front of a rowdy fans.Comment on this story
Those fans, clad in mustard-yellow "Gold Swagger" shirts, were frothing at the mouth at the beginning of Game 6. By the end, they could only clap in appreciation for their gritty team.
The Heat now awaits the winner of the Eastern Conference semifinals between the Celtics and 76ers. Regardless of the outcome, the Eastern Conference finals will begin on Monday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.
The Heat won Game 6 despite losing the rebounding battle 37-26. It was the first time this series a team won despite being out-rebounded.
With Udonis Haslem watching the game from an Indianapolis hotel room due to his suspension, the Heat's sharpshooters did just enough to provide support for Wade and James.