East powers collide when Pacers host Heat
(SportsNetwork.com) - Scoring has been an issue lately for the Eastern Conference-leading Indiana Pacers and defense hasn't been able to save them.
Playing against a determined Miami Heat squad doesn't appear to work in Indiana's favor when the two powerhouses collide Wednesday night from Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The Pacers are currently two games ahead of Miami for homecourt advantage in the Eastern Conference playoffs and missed out on a chance to clinch a second straight Central Division title with Monday's 89-77 loss at Chicago. The Pacers scored less than 80 points for a second straight game and lost for the third time in four tries after winning four in a row.
Paul George led three Indiana players with 21 points, George Hill had 17 and David West tallied 14 points to go along with nine rebounds. Lance Stephenson ended with eight points and 10 rebounds for the Pacers, who shot a paltry 37 percent and suffered their third straight loss on the road.
"Everything has been so lackadaisical," said George, who was averaging 11.7 points in his previous three games. "It's going to get you beat."
Indiana has failed to score 100 points in each of the last 12 losses dating back to a 124-100 defeat against the Phoenix Suns. The Pacers are averaging just 97.8 points this season, but are first in opponents' scoring (91.8 ppg) and opponents' field goal percentage (41.7 percent).
The Pacers are an NBA-best 32-4 at home and have won three in a row and seven of their last eight games on their own court. They have outscored opponents by 12.8 ppg at home this season and posted a franchise-best 36-5 mark as the host back in 1999-00.
Indiana can clinch a second straight Central Division crown with a win.
Meanwhile, LeBron James was clearly disappointed after Miami's loss at New Orleans Saturday.
"We make excuses. Everything is an excuse. We do something wrong it's an excuse, we don't get a stop it's an excuse, we turn the ball over it's an excuse," James said. "We gotta own what we're doing right now and what we're doing right now ain't good enough."
James and the Heat were good enough in Monday's 93-91 win over the Portland Trail Blazers and the four-time NBA MVP deposited the game-winning layup over Robin Lopez with 11.4 seconds to go. Blazers guard Damian Lillard tried tying the game on a drive of his own, but Heat forward Chris Bosh swatted the shot.
"I was able to get into the lane and finish," said James, who finished with 32 points on 13-of-23 shooting and is averaging 26.8 points in his last 12 games.
Bosh added 15 points and Chris Andersen delivered a double-double of 13 points and 11 rebounds off the bench. Miami entered Monday's game losers in seven of 11 games, but is 4-2 in the past six.
The Heat are closing in on a fourth straight Southeast Division title and will play three in a row on the road against Indiana, Detroit and Milwaukee. They have lost two straight and five of six road games, and have a respectable 20-15 mark away from South Beach.
Dwyane Wade has missed the last two outings for the Heat with a sore Achilles and knee, but is expected to play on Wednesday.
Miami lost the first meeting with Indiana 90-84 on the road, but evened the season series with a 97-94 triumph on Dec. 18 in South Beach. The two Eastern giants will close out the season series April 11 in Miami.
The Heat have lost four straight and 18 of 22 games in the Hoosier State.
03/26 10:01:13 ET