The Heat advanced to the 2014 NBA Finals by blowing out the Pacers 117-92 in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals in Miami on Friday.
Miami's victory secured the franchise's fourth consecutive Eastern Conference title. The Heat, who started the playoffs as the East's No. 2 seed, went 12-3 (.800) against the Bobcats (4-0), Nets (4-1) and Pacers (4-2) on their way to the Finals. Miami is now 48-16 (.750) in the playoffs against the East since LeBron James left Cleveland for South Beach in 2010.
"We know we still have work to do, but we won't take this for granted," James said during a post-game interview on Friday.
James finished with 25 points (on 8-for-12 shooting), six assists and four rebounds in Game 6. Chris Bosh added 25 points (on 10-for-14 shooting) and eight rebounds for Miami, who defeated Indiana for the second straight time in the East finals. Paul George led the Pacers with 29 points (on 8-for-18 shooting), eight rebounds and two assists in the loss.
It's been nearly 30 years since an NBA team has advanced to the Finals for four straight years. The last franchise to do it was the Celtics, led by Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish, who went to the Finals from 1984 to 1987, winning titles in 1984 and 1986.
Although Michael Jordan's Bulls won six titles in eight years during the 1990s, they never advanced to four straight Finals because of his two-year retirement to pursue a baseball career. The Shaquille O'Neal/Kobe Bryant Lakers won three straight titles from 2000-2002, but they never advanced to four straight Finals. The Spurs have won four titles during the Tim Duncan era, but they have never advanced to the Finals in back-to-back years, let alone four consecutive times.
Miami coach Erik Spoelstra, James, Dwyane Wade, Bosh and company are seeking their third straight title. The Heat would join the Bulls (1991-1993 and 1996-998) and Lakers (2000-2002) as the only teams to three-peat in the last 45 years. The Celtics, led by Bill Russell, won eight straight titles from 1959-1966 and the Minneapolis Lakers, powered by George Mikan, won three straight titles from 1952-1954.
James, 29, also has a chance to join Jordan and O'Neal as the only players to win three straight Finals MVP awards. After falling to the Mavericks in 2011, James guided the Heat past the Thunder in five games in the 2012 Finals and the Spurs in six games in the 2013 Finals.
The Heat will face either the Spurs or Thunder in the Finals, with San Antonio holding a 3-2 series lead over Oklahoma City in the Western Conference finals, with Game 6 set for Saturday at the Chesapeake Energy Arena. Game 1 of the Finals, which will be played in either San Antonio or Oklahoma City, is set for Thursday, June 5.