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MIAMI — Their season, their legacy, their reign atop the NBA was all at stake, and the Miami Heat responded to all of that in a manner befitting champions.
With a blowout.
It’s onto the NBA Finals for the Heat after they put away the Indiana Pacers, who saw their hopes of a storybook upset simply fall apart in a hurry.
LeBron James scored 32 points and grabbed eight rebounds, ailing Dwyane Wade matched his playoff high with 21 points, and the Heat ran away from the Pacers 99-76 in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals Monday night.
The Heat earned the right to play the San Antonio Spurs in a series that starts Thursday night in Miami.
Miami led by as many as 28 points, a shocking amount for a series that had an aggregate score of Heat 569, Pacers 564 entering Monday night. The Heat trailed by six in the early going, were still down 21-19 after the first quarter, and it was starting to look like it was going to be one of those down-to-the-wire nights.
Not even close.
James exited with 5:08 left, shaking retired soccer star David Beckham's hand as he made his way to the Heat bench for a relatively subdued celebration. Not long afterward, security personnel started what's become a familiar task in Miami — surrounding the court and stretching out a yellow rope, preparing to hold people at bay for the looming on-court trophy presentation.
More than a few people didn’t stick around to see the East title formally presented. After all, it’s an all-or-nothing season for the Heat — and this trophy isn’t the one that will satisfy the Heat.
Ray Allen added 10 points for Miami, which won its 78th game of the season, matching the 11th-best, single-season total in NBA history.
Roy Hibbert scored 18 points for the Pacers, who got 14 from David West, 13 from George Hill, and 10 from Lance Stephenson. All-Star Paul George was held to seven points on 2-for-9 shooting and fouled out early in the fourth quarter.
NEW YORK — Jason Kidd retired Monday from the NBA after 19 seasons, ending one of the greatest careers for a point guard in league history.
Kidd won an NBA title and two Olympic gold medals, is second on the career list in assists and steals, and was a 10-time All-Star. But he struggled badly in the playoffs for the Knicks shortly after turning 40 and decided to walk away with two years and more than $6 million left on the deal he signed last summer.
“My time in professional basketball has been an incredible journey, but one that must come to an end after 19 years,” Kidd said in a statement released by the Knicks. “As I reflect on my time with the four teams I represented in the NBA, I look back fondly at every season and thank each every one of my teammates and coaches that joined me on the court.”
His retirement comes two days after fellow 40-year-old Grant Hill, with whom Kidd shared Rookie of the Year honors in 1995, announced his retirement.
Kidd led the longtime-losing Nets to two NBA Finals in 2002-03, helped the Dallas Mavericks win the 2011 title, and was on the first Knicks team to reach the second round of the playoffs since 2000.