Inquirer Daily News

Heat drop Pacers, control destiny in East

Miami, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - The road to the Eastern Conference title appears to be headed through South Beach.

LeBron James scored a game-high 36 points and the Miami Heat surprisingly blew out the rival Indiana Pacers, 98-86, on Friday in the finale of the season series between last year's conference finals combatants.

The outcome did not determine the East's top seed, but Miami now controls its own fate with winnable games against the Hawks, Wizards and 76ers remaining. Indiana, which sits a half-game behind the two-time defending champions, hosts the Thunder before a road tilt against Orlando ends its regular season.

Despite being without Dwyane Wade for a ninth straight game because of a hamstring injury, the Heat pulled away courtesy of a lopsided third quarter.

James scored 13 of his points in the frame, which saw the Heat turn a three- point halftime cushion into a lead that grew to 23 points.

Mario Chalmers finished with 13 points, five rebounds and five assists, while Udonis Haslem netted 11 points with nine boards in the resounding win.

The crushing loss added to Indiana's recent swoon, one that included head coach Frank Vogel benching his starters in a lead-up game to Friday's clash. Paul George and David West were the only starters to respond with double-digit scoring efforts, totaling 22 and 18 points, respectively.

Roy Hibbert was limited to five points on 2-of-6 shooting, and the 7-foot-2 center only grabbed one rebound in nearly 34 minutes of playing time.

04/11 22:19:44 ET