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Heat down Pacers, set up NBA Final matchup versus Spurs

It took them getting pushed to the brink for the second year in a row, but the Miami Heat will be returning to the NBA Finals for the third straight time. Led by 32 points from LeBron James, the Heat dispatched the Indiana Pacers by a score of 99-76 in game seven of the Eastern Conference Finals on Monday night, setting up finals showdown against the San Antonio Spurs, which tips off on Thursday night.

As has been the case throughout the entire playoffs, James was the center of the Heat's success. Despite being down at the end of the first quarter, the Heat responded with a 33-point second quarter and staked out a halftime lead they would not relinquish. The reigning MVP had 18 points at intermission, and his performance continued a trend of him stepping up when his team needs it most.

"There's a notion that high-caliber players need to step up and play at the highest levels in Game sevens," James told ESPN.com. "I've been blessed to be pretty good in Game sevens in my career."

This won't be the first time that James has faced the Spurs in the championship round. In 2007, when he was still with the Cleveland Cavaliers, he was swept by San Antonio thanks to a dominating performance from the likes of Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili - all of whom are still with the Spurs. 

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