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Pacers get good again late to reach another conference final with Heat

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The NBA playoffs have seen the best and worst of the Indiana Pacers. Yet although the Pacers were a win away from the conference finals on May 15, their worst has defined their NBA playoff run so far. It looked like Indiana would set a new low by blowing a big lead to the Washington Wizards in Game 6 and face a second straight Game 7 -- but then the good Pacers finally returned to secure a 93-80 victory.

The trajectory of Game 6 reflected the season for the Pacers as a whole, as they started out red hot, teetered on the brink of disaster when they cooled off, but finally survived in the end. Of course, advancing in the conference semifinals is hardly an ending, now that a conference finals rematch with the Miami Heat is finally set in stone.

The Pacers worked to have home court through the NBA playoffs, or at least through a series with the Heat. But once again, being on the road bailed out Indiana, as it won its third straight game in Washington. In fact, the Pacers could breathe pretty easily at first, opening up a 16-point lead early in the second half.

Yet the Pacers then went on one of their inexplicable cold streaks, as John Wall led the Wizards back into contention. With 8 1/2 minutes left, Bradley Beal capped the comeback by giving Washington a 74-73 lead. At that moment, Indiana looked destined to host another Game 7 it never should have been forced into.

It was David West who stopped the bleeding, giving the Pacers the lead for good on two jumpers. West would hit 13-of-26 shots for 29 points, sparking the rest of the Pacers to a big finish while the Wizards went ice cold. Just like in Game 4 at Washington, the Wizards went on a drought at the worst possible time and blew a game they could have won at home.

Washington finished the NBA playoffs with a 1-5 home record, as Indiana improved to 5-1 on the road thus far. With the Pacers being 3-4 at home in the postseason, their much sought after home court advantage against the Heat may well be a curse. Nevertheless, the Heat have won easily at home and on the road in the first two rounds, so the Pacers could be doomed no matter what.

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