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Friday, April 11th (All times Eastern)
Indiana Pacers (54-25) at Miami Heat (53-25), 7:30 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - Eastern Conference supremacy is at stake Friday night when the Indiana Pacers visit South Beach to take on the Miami Heat in a highly-anticipated regular-season showdown.
These two teams have dominated the conference all season and their battle for that No. 1 seed, and homecourt throughout the Eastern playoffs remains up for grabs.
The Pacers are a half-game clear of the Heat thanks to a bizarre victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday. Miami appears to be playing better than Indiana of late, but the Heat have dropped two straight.
The Pacers are 4-8 over their last 12 games and have looked anything like a championship-caliber team. Their vaunted defense has fallen out of the No. 1 ranking in the NBA and offensively, they look lost. Late-game turnovers and questionable decisions have plagued this Indiana team, which has been accused of selfish play by members of its own locker room.
The Heat are 10-11 since early March and 5-5 over their last 10. Perhaps Miami's biggest concern is health. All-Star guard Dwyane Wade missed eight of the last 10 with a strained left hamstring/Achilles.
"There's some sense of worry," LeBron James said after the team's 107-102 road loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday. "We want to get healthy. That's all that we care about. We've got more problems as far as health issues than the No. 1 seed."
James probably couldn't have done much more to single-handedly try and get a team victory on Wednesday. He scored 37 points, grabbed six rebounds and handed out five assists.
Rashard Lewis came off the bench to score 17, followed by 13 from Chris Bosh and 12 out of Mario Chalmers.
The Heat shot 52 percent from the floor and a whopping 60 percent from long range, but allowed Memphis to shoot 55 percent from the field. The Grizzlies slaughtered the Heat on the boards to the tune of, 41-27.
The Heat visit the Atlanta Hawks and Washington Wizards before closing out the regular season Wednesday at home against the lowly Philadelphia 76ers.
Indiana temporarily righted the ship on Wednesday night with a 104-102 road win over the Bucks. That stopped a two-game slide, but the Pacers have still dropped five of their last seven.
What made Wednesday's victory so bizarre was head coach Frank Vogel's decision to bench all five of his starters for rest.
So with a starting lineup of Evan Turner, Donald Sloan, Ian Mahinmi, Luis Scola and Rasual Butler, it was bench player Chris Copeland who secured the victory with a go-ahead floater with 1.2 seconds on the clock.
"I think it's huge for us. One, obviously it gives some of our banged-up starters an opportunity to rest and heal up," said Copeland. "It's big for our confidence, for the second unit. This is going to take 15 guys to make a run at this thing. I think it's big for us, for our confidence and knowing that we can play."
Copeland finished with 18 points. Scola had 24 points and nine rebounds, while Turner added 23 points, nine assists and seven boards. Butler was the only other double-figure scorer for Indiana with 10.
Vogel said the full lineup will be back for Friday night.
The Pacers have won two of three this season against the Heat, but both wins came at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Miami has won five straight regular-season contests against Indiana in South Beach.
04/11 10:51:32 ET
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