The Miami Heat need one more win to make their third consecutive trip to the NBA Finals as they return to Indianapolis for Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Indiana Pacers. Tipoff for the game is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. ET on TNT.
The Heat are familiar with handling the ups and downs of a long playoff run, as well as closing out opponents to advance. In the second round of last year's playoffs, Miami closed out Indiana in Game 6 after Dwyane Wade exploded for 41 points and the Pacers wilted under the pressure after a strong third-quarter run.
This is a different series, though. Many of the names remain the same, but their impact this year has changed. Miami coach Erik Spoelstra knows the Heat will have to come together for a strong effort to get past the Pacers in a raucous Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
"Our experience in a lot of different situations has taught us a lot." Spoelstra said, via the Sun-Sentinel. "It doesn't guarantee us anything and we know that the toughest teams to play are the ones that are on their last stand. We can expect a great environment. We need to have a collective resolve to get it done."
The Pacers remain confident they can push the series back to Miami for Game 7, which is no surprise with coach Frank Vogel continuing to motivate his team.
"We're still encouraged," Vogel said on Friday, via Pacers.com. "We know we have to play great to beat this team, we know we didn't play well enough to do it, we're confident that we can."
"It's not false talk. There's a reason I'm confident. I like to tell these guys I'm not an optimist. That's what my image is. I'm a realist and when I look around at what I see in the room when I'm talking to this team or what I see on the court and the level of execution that we're capable of and the adjustments that make sense with our coaching staff, which I think my three assistant coaches are the best in the NBA, the intelligence that they bring to the table combined with the talent we have on this basketball team gives me real confidence in this basketball team."
The Pacers appeared to lose that confidence in Game 5 when LeBron James lit up the third quarter to raise the intensity and level of play for the Heat. Indiana's poor response leaves them with their backs against the wall, while the Heat can smell the finals. With motivation in abundance for both teams, Game 6 should add another entertaining chapter to this intense Eastern Conference Finals series.
Heat vs. Pacers, Game 6
Game time: 8:30 p.m. ET
Odds: Miami opened as a three-point favorite