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A ‘must-win’ situation for both Heat and Pacers

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Though there will still be some work left to be done for both teams, the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers will pretty much be playing for the No. 1 playoff seed in the Eastern Conference when they clash Friday night in Miami’s AmericanAirlines Arena (NBA TV/Sunsports, 7:30 p.m. ET).

If the Heat win, they will regain the lead they lost when they collapsed in the fourth quarter in Memphis and lost 107-102 to the Grizzlies Wednesday night. But they will be up by only one game to the Pacers in the “lost column” with the Pacers holding the tiebreaker for the top seed and may need to win their final three games as well to seal the deal.

If the Pacers win, they will also own a one-game lead in the “lost” column of the standings, but would need at least a split of their remaining two games (Oklahoma City at home and at Orlando) to be assured of finishing No. 1 in the East if the Heat would win their last three outings.

At this point, however, both the Heat and Pacers have other things on their minds than just the seeding situation.

Even with their 104-102 win at Milwaukee Wednesday night, the Pacers are just 4-8 in their last 12 games. 2-5 in their last seven. Coach Frank Vogel is hoping that leaving his five starters at home instead playing against the Bucks will help rejuvenate his team.

The Heat, meanwhile, have lost three of their last four, but the main concern is the health of the team.

All-Star guard Dwayne Wade (hamstring) hasn’t played since the loss to the Pacers in Indianapolis back on March 24. Forward Udonis Haslem, who was showing signs of regaining the form that made him a valuable contributor in the each of the Heat’s three title years, has missed the last two games with the stomach flu.

Forward Chris Andersen sat out the loss to the Grizzlies with a bruised right knee after hobbling around during the one-point loss to Brooklyn in the previous outing the night before.

And, like Wade, center Greg Oden hasn’t played since the March loss to the Pacers because of back spasms. The hope he would be the answer to the physicalness of the Pacers down the line gets slimmer and slimmer with every game he sits out.

Wade has been working out before recent games before spending the rest of the game in street clothes. It looks good that he will return against the Pacers Friday, but he is still considered “day-to-day,” coach Erik Spoelstra said after the loss to the Grizzlies.

Haslem and Anderson are day-to-day as well.

It would help the Heat to have all those players available when they take on the Pacers, but having them in the best of health for the next weekend when the playoffs begin obviously is a bigger factor.

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