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Heat slip back into No. 2 seed before final showdown with Pacers

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The Miami Heat seemed to have the Eastern Conference well in hand this week. Yet as of April 10, the Heat are back where they were for much of the season. For all that the Indiana Pacers have done to cough up home court advantage, Miami has given it right back with a two-game losing streak -- including a 107-102 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on April 9 while the Pacers barely beat the Milwaukee Bucks by 104-102.

As such, the Pacers are back ahead by a half-game and can all but clinch the No. 1 seed -- and home court for a potential conference finals rematch with the Heat -- by beating the Heat in Miami on April 11. Of course, since Indiana almost lost to the worst team in the NBA on April 9, it still might be a tall order.

The Pacers needed to bench their entire starting five to get a jolt, and even that almost failed against the 14-64 Bucks. Nevertheless, Chris Copeland finally put Indiana over the top on a basket with 1.2 seconds left.

If he hadn't, a loss to Milwaukee and a lost chance to leap over Miami would have truly put coach Frank Vogel on the hot seat. Luckily for him, the Bucks couldn't take advantage of the slumping Pacers, while the desperate Grizzlies held off the Heat.

After losing to the Brooklyn Nets on April 8 due to a last-second blocked shot on LeBron James -- which looms a lot larger now -- Miami didn't come as close in Memphis. Despite James' 37 points, the Heat suffered from a 60-30 disadvantage in points from the paint, while a 12-2 run in the fourth quarter put the Grizzlies ahead for good.

Indiana appeared to have the No. 1 seed locked up for months, yet it took Miami a few days to give it back. Now the Eastern Conference may well come down to one game in Miami tomorrow night. If the Pacers can get the road win over the Heat that they couldn't in Game 7 of last year's conference finals, it might wake them up and make them worthy of home court again.

Otherwise, if the Heat wake back up and beat the Pacers at home in the biggest game of the year, it will be easy to see the same thing happen in Miami over a month from now.

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