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Thunder and Spurs Advance to Western Conference Finals

5/22/12

The Western Conference Finals are set in the 2012 NBA playoffs with the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs and second-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder both advancing, but the last two teams in the East have yet to be determined. The fourth-seeded Boston Celtics are one win away from advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals after topping the eighth-seeded Philadelphia 76ers 101-85 in Game 5 at home on Monday. The second-seeded Miami Heat will try to duplicate that feat on Tuesday when they host the third-seeded Indiana Pacers in their semifinal series.
 
 The Heat (-6.5) beat the Pacers in Game 4 on Sunday much like the Celtics defeated the 76ers, rallying back from a halftime deficit by playing as if it were their last game. Miami steamrolled Indiana in the second half, starting in the third quarter when stars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade combined to score 28 of the team's 30 points. The dynamic duo totaled 70 points between them in the game overall, with James adding 18 rebounds and nine assists to one of his best postseason performances ever. The Heat outscored the Pacers 55-39 after the intermission while Boston outscored Philly 54-35 in the second half on Monday.
 
 Indiana had led by eight points going into the third, but big men Roy Hibbert and David West were both severely limited by foul trouble with each finishing with five fouls. Danny Granger and Darren Collison had their best games of the series, combining for 36 points, but they only went to the free-throw line six times between them. The free-throw disparity was not that big overall, as Miami went to the charity stripe four more times and scored the same amount of points with 20.
 
 The Pacers will need to challenge the Heat inside with Hibbert and West in Game 5, something they were not able to do effectively in Game 4 due to their absence for long stretches of time. Hibbert had 19 points, 18 rebounds and five blocked shots in Indiana's 94-75 victory in Game 3, and he played a large role in keeping James and Wade out of the paint. Miami definitely misses Chris Bosh right now because he could draw Hibbert out to the perimeter and open things up down low for his teammates.
 
 Without Bosh in the mix, the Heat are counting on Ronny Turiaf, Joel Anthony and Udonis Haslem to man the middle defensively and contribute offensively whenever possible. Haslem is coming off his best performance of the playoffs, scoring 14 points on 6 of 7 shooting and scored four of Miami's last five baskets to end the game. Indiana is 4-2 against the spread in the last six meetings with the Heat, and the UNDER is 5-2 in the previous seven games between the teams.

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