Pacers take control of playoff race with 84-83 win

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 27, 2014 at 3:20 am •  Published: March 27, 2014
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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Pacers and Heat were in no mood to talk about the playoffs Wednesday night.

It was about the only thing they agreed on.

Indiana charged back from a seven-point fourth-quarter deficit, handing the two-time defending champs an 84-83 loss that could force them to return to Indianapolis for a possible seventh game in the playoffs.

"We're going to be one or two (seed), no matter what happened this game," James said after a 38-point night. "So you know, it means nothing."

The Pacers (52-20), who clinched a second straight Central Division title, now have a clear path to home-court advantage in the Eastern Conference.

With 10 games to go, the NBA's best home team has four at Bankers Life Fieldhouse and only five against teams with a winning record.

Miami (48-22) plays five winning teams in its last 12 and seven at home — including Round 4 with the Pacers on April 11. But the Heat are 7-8 in March, were unable to protect two leads in the fourth quarter and finished the game with Dwayne Wade icing his right hamstring.

Indiana, meanwhile, is still trying to get back in rhythm.

"This is a game that will hopefully get us back on track. It's one game," said Paul George, who had 23 points to help the Pacers end a two-game losing streak. "We have to go back there and play one more, we have to look at it like that. But this is one step closer to playing good basketball to end this year."

Physical basketball, too.

It was the rare grudge match that actually lived up to its billing.

Before the game, the teams chided one another with dueling comments. Afterward, nobody was ready to make up. And in between, the action got downright nasty.

James needed a cotton swab in his nose to keep playing in the fourth quarter after getting whacked in the face.

Pacers center Roy Hibbert scored 21 points and finished the game despite taking an elbow to the face that left him so groggy he didn't even remember getting hit.

James and George both wound up taking spills into basket supports, and Lance Stephenson was ejected midway through the fourth quarter after picking up his second technical foul for celebrating a basket. The angry Stephenson waved his hand at the ref and after leaving the court, threw a towel and kicked a door. Coach Frank Vogel was not amused with his guard, saying he had a stern talk with the budding star before he went home.

Nobody had it rougher than James, who missed a late 3-pointer that could have given Miami the lead and was treated like anything but royalty. Chris Bosh also missed a potential winning 3 as the buzzer sounded. Despite the loss, the Heat clinched first in the Southeast Division when Washington lost to Phoenix.

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