Pacers, Heat still fighting for East No. 1 seed

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 10, 2014 at 1:12 pm •  Published: April 10, 2014
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MIAMI (AP) — For the last six weeks, Indiana and Miami haven't exactly looked like NBA title contenders.

The Heat have lost 11 of their last 21 games.

The Pacers, they've dropped 12 of their last 20.

And both teams are still way ahead of everyone else in the Eastern Conference standings. They'll meet Friday to decide who moves a giant step closer to having the No. 1 seed on their half of the NBA playoff bracket, Indiana (54-25) entering with a half-game lead over Miami (53-25).

"It's going to be intense," Heat forward Chris Bosh said. "It's going to be a hard-fought game. There's something at stake. It'll pretty much be the playoffs and I think it'll be a great atmosphere. ... We expect them at their best. Everybody we play, we expect them at their best because that's what we get."

Neither team will clinch the top seed Friday but the winner gets full control. Indiana would beat Miami in tiebreakers if necessary, so the Pacers would lower their magic number for the East top seed to one with a victory. The Heat would move a half-game ahead if they win, plus could deal Indiana another blow in a wild week.

The Pacers got embarrassed at home by Atlanta on Sunday, which prompted coach Frank Vogel to sit his starting five out of the entirety of Indiana's game Wednesday at Milwaukee. The Pacers' reserves beat the NBA's worst team 104-102, and that combined with Miami's loss at Memphis sent Indiana back atop the East.

"It's huge for us," said Pacers guard Chris Copeland, who hit the game-winner against Milwaukee. "Obviously it gives some of our banged-up starters an opportunity to rest and heal up. It's big for our confidence, for the second unit. This is going to take 15 guys to make a run at this thing."

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