The Miami Heat had to prove they were still above the Indiana Pacers on Dec. 18. Yet for about 40 minutes, the Pacers looked every bit like a team ready to knock the Heat from their throne. However, the Pacers and the rest of the NBA know that it takes 48 full minutes to finish the Heat -- and Indiana couldn't hold on that long in a 97-94 defeat.
Miami held a 14-13 lead in the first quarter, then trailed for all but the final minute of the night. Still, that final minute was the most important, as the Heat capped off a 12-2 run in the last 3:21 of the game. Before that, the Pacers were up by as many as 15 points and were poised to get their second win of the year over their nemesis.
Indiana let some playoff games get away from it against Miami in the last two years, which proved very costly. The same applied in this latest battle, although it was far less important. But given how home court might be all important in a potential Eastern Conference final rematch, the race for the No. 1 seed could be lost from missed chances like this.
The Pacers already had a come from behind win at home over the Heat on Dec. 10, though the score was decidedly evened in Miami. Even with LeBron James battling a sprained ankle and the Heat being behind for much of the night, they flipped the switch on when they had to yet again.
James wasn't the one who made the night's biggest shots, however. Chris Bosh drained his first three-pointer in 15 attempts to tie the score at 92, with Ray Allen putting the Heat up for good beyond the arc moments later. Miami's defense also made sure that Indiana stayed cold in the final moments, as it also forced a turnover from George Hill in the Pacers' last attempt to take the lead.
With Roy Hibbert in foul trouble all night, Dwayne Wade getting a season-high 32 points and James getting a "quiet" 24 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, the Heat made their statement. The Pacers may maintain the better overall record by a game, yet everyone remembered who the Eastern Conference and NBA favorites still are.