MIAMI - With their season, legacy and reign atop the NBA at stake, the Miami Heat responded in a manner befitting defending champions - with a blowout.
LeBron James scored 32 points and grabbed eight rebounds, and ailing Dwyane Wade tied his postseason high with 21 points as the Heat routed the Indiana Pacers 99-76 in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals on Monday night.
Wade, taxed by Indiana's defense and an achy knee in the series, came together with James at the right time. In the NBA Finals for the third straight year, the Heat will play the San Antonio Spurs, starting Thursday in Miami.
"They're just an amazing group of guys," Heat managing general partner Micky Arison said. "They've given us an incredible season so far, but it's a long way from over."
It could have ended on Monday, of course. Miami had alternated wins and losses with the Pacers in the first six games of the series, with James having to make up for a struggling Wade and Chris Bosh.
But Wade had 10 points by halftime, including a driving layup and a fast-break dunk, and Bosh scored five straight points in an 11-2 run in the second quarter as the Heat took its first double-digit lead. Ray Allen hit his first three three-pointers, breaking out of a major slump, and Chris Andersen slammed home a rebound in his first minutes back after a one-game suspension.
"By any means necessary ... we took care of business," James said.
James delivered an inspirational talk to teammates before, insisting they would be ready. He was right.
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 21-19 after the first quarter, but it wasn't close after that.
A swarming Heat defense, which forced 15 Indiana turnovers in the first half, helped Miami outscore the Pacers 33-16 in the second period to take a 52-37 halftime lead.
James exited with 5:08 left in the game, shaking retired soccer star David Beckham's hand as he made his way to the Heat bench for a relatively subdued celebration.
"You never want to take anything for granted," Wade said afterward. "Being here three straight years in a row, going back to the finals, is an amazing feat. I'm just glad we were able to do it."
Miami earned its 78th victory of the season, matching the 11th-best, single-season total in NBA history. The Heat lost the title to Dallas in 2011, then won it last season over Oklahoma City.
Roy Hibbert scored 18 points for Indiana, but All-Star Paul George was held to seven points on 2-for-9 shooting and fouled out early in the fourth quarter.
"The great thing is we're a young team and we are past the building stage," George said.
• Who: Spurs at Heat, Game 1 of NBA Finals
• When: 6 p.m. Thursday
• TV: Channel 9