INDIANAPOLIS -- This series was never about the easy storylines and ancillary noise. It wasnt about what team was tougher or which was soft. Was never about who was flopping or who was more physical. Wasnt even about the flagrant fouls, suspensions, trash talking or dripping blood.
Peel away all that static and distill to the essence and this Heat-Pacers second-round playoff series was about what Thursday nights deciding Game 6 here was about. Just this:
Miami was better.
Was all along, and showed it.
Miami was the team missing major players Chris Bosh to an injury and Udonis Haslem to a suspension, and playing on the hostile road against an utterly desperate opponent and still Miami was better.
Why? Simple. No over-analysis needed.
Miami was the team that had the best player in this series the best player in the entire NBA.
Except LeBron James isnt always even the best player on his own team.
Sometimes that is Dwyane Wade.
This time, when it mattered most, it was Wade.
Man, was it ever. Brilliantly, emphatically, it was Wade.
He was spectacular, James said.
And that is why Indiana fans in their Gold Swagger T-shirts emptied into the night quietly Thursday, their team finished, while Miami with its Gold Standard duo moves on, as expected to the Eastern Conference finals.
Heat 105, Pacers 93.
The Heat won this elimination game for a bunch of reasons but none as big as Wade scoring a game-high 41 points on magnificent 17-for-25 shooting, including a monstrous 20-point second quarter when Miami shook off a slow start and climbed back into the game.
For Wade it was a season-high for points and a personal career playoff best.
Ebulliently he strode into the postgame interview room wearing slacks whose color might have been red-meets-salmon, the pants nearly as loud as his performance.
I know theyre killing me in the [TV] studio about my pants, he joked. Theyre just mad they cant pull it off.
There was this one magical moment in that quarter when Wade swiveled and juked into the paint for a layup except he spun a behind-the-back pass instead for an emphatic James slam-dunk. That gave Miami a four-point lead on a Wade-fueled 11-2 run, and all the Pacers crowd could do was boo lustily.
See, opposing fans surely cannot cheer Wade and James greatness. But to be struck mute seems wimpy. And weeping wouldnt seem right. So you boo. What else is there?
James and Wade together scored 70, 58 and 69 points over the past three games.
Am in the market for new adjectives or synonyms for stupendous if anybody has any.
Theyre too good, said the Pacers David West. Their two main guys, it was just too much for us. We didnt have the resistance.
Now the Heat awaits Boston (likely) or Philadelphia in the Eastern finals starting Monday night in Miami, owning the home court against either, championship hopes looking robust again when they seemed anything but only three games ago as Indiana led this series 2-1 and Wade was screaming at coach Erik Spoelstra on the sideline.
Credit the Pacers own attitude and approach to this series for sparking the Heats resurgence.
The opening playoff series vs. the Knicks had built-in motivation. It was New York. There was the teams past bitter rivalry. There was Madison Square Garden. There was Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire.