Indiana spent the entire season perfecting its defense.
On Saturday, it produced the biggest payoff for the Pacers in nearly a decade.
Roy Hibbert’s block of Carmelo Anthony’s dunk attempt midway through the fourth quarter spurred an 11-2 run that rallied the Pacers to a 106-99 victory in Game 6 of their second-round series, sending them into their first Eastern Conference final since 2004.
New York native Lance Stephenson scored nine points in the run, finishing with a playoff career-high 25.
“That’s why they pay me the big bucks this summer, so I have to protect the paint,” said Hibbert, who signed a $58 million contract last summer. “If all else fails, meaning the offense, I have to protect the paint.”
With players from both teams standing on the court as the final seconds ticked off and Pacers fans roaring in appreciation, the sellout crowd wasted little time breaking into chants of “Beat The Heat!”
For Indiana, it sets up a postseason rematch with the defending NBA champs, the team that eliminated them last May after the Pacers had taken a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven semifinals. The Heat wound up winning Game 4 at Indiana and followed that with two more wins as Danny Granger struggled with a knee injury.
So, does Indiana have a chance against Miami? In a word no.
The West Finals tip off today, with Memphis taking on San Antonio in what should be a great series. Do NOT count the Grizzlies out.