Pacers, Heat start bracing to square off again

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 19, 2013 at 1:59 pm •  Published: May 19, 2013
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MIAMI (AP) — A year ago when Miami and Indiana faced off in the postseason, there were blood-drawing hits, flagrant fouls, technical fouls, choke signs being directed toward LeBron James and more than a few sharp-tongued comments.

Here they possibly go again, at least on the comment front.

The Eastern Conference finals between the Heat and Pacers won't begin until Wednesday night, but there's already signs that the animosity present throughout last season's Miami-Indiana second-round series will likely return this time around. The first flare-up appeared to arrive Saturday night, when Pacers coach Frank Vogel called the reigning champion Heat "just the next team that's in our way."

Predictably, the Heat didn't seem to take that as flattery.

"We're a great team," said James, the Heat forward who won the NBA's MVP award for the fourth time this season. "We're very confident. We'll be ready for them. If we're just another team, you don't prepare, you really don't prepare for just another team. We're not just another team. You have to prepare for us."

And away they go.

Pushing, shoving, a few extra words, that's all typical extra-curricular activity in playoff basketball. With Heat-Pacers last season, there seemed to be more. Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem were bloodied at times. Haslem targeted Indiana's Tyler Hansbrough in what was perceived as retaliation for a foul against Wade. And Lance Stephenson — who made the "choke" sign after James missed a free throw in a Game 3 loss — getting leveled by now-former Miami reserve Dexter Pittman in a particularly memorable end to a blowout Heat win in Game 5.

"We don't need bulletin-board material," James said.

The Heat took the rare step of practicing on their game court Sunday instead of inside their gym located upstairs, and coach Erik Spoelstra called it a "training-camp" workout. And this statistic — Pacers 2, Heat 1 — surely will keep Miami from believing a third straight finals trip is an inevitability, since not only was that the lead Indiana held in last season's playoff series, it also represents the win totals from this year's three matchups between the clubs.

"If we're the same team that we were last year, that won't be good enough," Spoelstra said. "Period. Fact. That's why we've spent so much time this year trying to develop habits to improve. We don't feel we're the same team that played the Indiana Pacers last year."