Miami Heat get one back in NBA's best rivalry
The best rivalry in the Eastern Conference is now on hiatus until March 26.
And the Miami Heat are a little bummed about that.
Two games in an eight-day span between Miami and the Indiana Pacers are now in the books, both teams winning on their home floor, and yes, all that mutual dislike that's a direct byproduct of rugged battles in the past two postseasons is still very much evident.
The last chapter went to Miami, with Dwyane Wade scoring 32 points, LeBron James adding 24 on a sore left ankle, and the Heat erasing a 15-point deficit to beat the Pacers 97-94 yesterday.
The next time the principals involved will see each other is at the All-Star Game, where Indiana coach Frank Vogel will almost certainly be coaching an East team that will have many of his guys - as well as James, Wade and Chris Bosh - all sharing a locker room.
"I'm actually kind of sad we don't play them for three months," James said. "This is a really, really good thing, going against these guys. They bring out the best in us. We try to bring out the best in them. It was fun. It was fun these last eight days while it lasted, and now we can get on with the rest of our season."
Both teams have 57 games left, and are separated by a game in the East. Indiana is now 20-5, the Heat 19-6.
Don't be surprised if the battle for the No 1 seed goes into April, either. That being said, both teams are leery of saying the East is already just a two-team race, even though there's really no one in their collective rear-view mirror.
"There is a large gap in the standings, but there are some teams that had injuries and some teams that are up-and-coming that will make second-half pushes come playoff time," Vogel said.
The second-half push came from the Heat.
Bosh and Ray Allen hit big 3-pointers within a 31-second span for Miami, which needed a late 10-0 run to finish off the comeback.
"It shows we're a team that's been there before," Wade said. "No matter what the score is we always feel we have an opportunity to win the game."
So even when Indiana led 68-53 midway through the third quarter, hope remained.
And even when James and Mario Chalmers were getting in a heated exchange during one particularly bleak period - James said afterward he was wrong, and Chalmers said the matter was forgotten - the Heat didn't fall apart.
"It was a good win," James said. "Good, good, quality win against a very good team on our home floor. We had to overcome a lot."