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National Basketball Association
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NBA Preview from The Sports Network



Thursday, May 30th (All times Eastern)

(3) Indiana Pacers (2-2) at (1) Miami Heat (2-2), 8:30 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The Eastern Conference Finals shift back to South Beach Thursday with the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers tied at 2-2.

The Pacers knotted the series on Tuesday night in Indianapolis with a 99-92 victory. Now, it's a best-of-three series for the right to meet the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals.

"We have to win a game in Miami. It's either Game 5 or Game 7," said Pacers coach Frank Vogel. "When you only have two chances to get one win, it's a very important game."

It's also a very important game for the Heat to get back on track.

Tuesday's performance was unimpressive and puzzling. LeBron James fouled out for only the second time in his playoff career on a questionable moving screen call. In fact, there were quite a few debatable decisions from the officials in Game 4.

"We can all agree to disagree," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said on Wednesday. "That's what the playoffs are about, overcoming everything. It's not easy to win in the playoffs. At the end of the day we didn't necessarily play well."

The Heat shot only 39 percent from the field in Game 4 and allowed the Pacers to shoot 50 percent. Perhaps the most glaring statistic that should bother Miami was the rebounding margin. The Pacers hammered the Heat on the glass to the tune of 49-30.

"If we don't get into that battle every single possession, they impose their will. That's their game," noted Spoelstra. "And they're very good at it. When we get into that battle and we're winning those battles, the script flips, and now they have to deal with a lot of things that we can impose on them."

If you're looking for part of the reason for the discrepancy in rebounding, look no further than Miami's starting center, Chris Bosh. He managed just three rebounds, went 1-for-6 from the floor and that made bucket came from beyond the 3-point line.

"It is a fine line because he has to be aggressive," Spoelstra said of Bosh. "We have to try to get him some easy ones. It also helps with rhythm. He does create a lot of spacing for us."

Spacing is fine, but Bosh was thoroughly outplayed by his counterpart, Indiana center Roy Hibbert. The Pacers big man had 23 points and 12 rebounds on Tuesday versus the seven points and three boards from Bosh.

Bosh was hardly the only problem for Miami.

James was good with 24 points, six rebounds and five assists, but he wasn't his usual dominant self. He will need to be dominant if Bosh struggles and Dwyane Wade continues to battle through a knee injury. Wade netted 16 points on 5-for-15 shooting.

Mario Chalmers scored 20 points and Ray Allen, who shot 4-for-13, chipped in 11.

To make Spoelstra sweat a little harder, both James and Bosh suffered ankle injuries, but neither is expected to miss Thursday's contest.

They'll need to be at full strength to counter the Pacers.

Hibbert was excellent. ("He's played the best basketball I've ever seen him play," said Vogel.) But Lance Stephenson was a huge factor for the Pacers. He scored 20 points on 9-of-15 shooting.

"I had to make this one of the best games I've played," said Stephenson. "I have to show people I'm ready for any competition or any challenge that comes to me."

George Hill added 19 points, David West had 14 and Paul George posted 12 points.

What has made this series so great is the competitiveness. Game 3 was the only blowout through the first four games and each team has won in the other's building.

"This is highly competitive, a lot of ties, lead changes," said Spoelstra. "You have to overcome and find a way. That's what it's about for Game 5."

Game 6 will be Saturday night in Indiana.

05/30 10:36:11 ET

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