MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Indiana Pacers pushed the Miami Heat to the brink only to come up short in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. But their play made a major announcement to the country and the NBA that the Pacers are here to stay.

Indiana made the push against the Heat without arguably one of their better players in Danny Granger who missed most of the season. Still, the Pacers rallied around the solid frontcourt of David West, Roy HIbbert, and the dynamic Paul George.

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Hibbert enjoyed one of the best series of games of his career until Game 7. The 7’2” center feasted on Miami’s complete lack of length inside. Hibbert averaged 22.1 points, 10.4 rebounds, one assist and one block per game in the conference finals.

For comparison purposes, Hibbert averaged 11.9 points and 8.3 rebounds per game during the regular season and has never averaged more than 12.8 points per game in his career.

George also came into his own during the series. The 6’9” swingman shot 47.5 percent from the field and 44.1 percent from behind the three point line against Miami. He averaged 19.4 points, 6 rebounds, and 5.1 assists per contest while also guarding LeBron James the majority of the time.

George was the last Indiana player on the floor as Miami prepped for its postgame celebration, shaking any hand he could find before being walked toward the visiting locker room by Pacers coach Frank Vogel, who slung an arm over his star’s shoulder.

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“The great thing is we’re a young team and we are past the building stage,” George said. “This is really our first year tasting success. The rate we are going, we see championships soon.”

Last year, the Pacers were knocked out by the Heat in the conference semifinals and they took the Heat to seven games in the conference finals this year which means George could be right.

“Everybody in this country knows who the Indiana Pacers are now,” Vogel said. “And we represent all the right things — class, character, hard work, old-school basketball, playing the game the right way. We represented our franchise, our city and our state extremely, extremely well, and we have a lot to be proud of.”

Indiana went through a maturation process during the conference finals. From Roy Hibbert learning what not to say, to the entire team seeing how much effort was needed to fully close out a talented team like the Heat.

The Pacers will be back and the next time there’s no guarantee that history will repeat itself for a third time.

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