The Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat have towered over the East all season. Yet prior to the Pacers and Heat's clash on March 26, they weren't exactly all powerful. Indiana and Miami have taken their feet off the gas in recent weeks, but they revved back up for their latest showdown -- with the Pacers having just enough fuel to survive an 84-83 victory.
Indiana and Miami both got bruised up in this one, as LeBron James took another hit on the nose, Dwayne Wade missed the last two minutes after hurting his hamstring, Roy Hibbert briefly went to the locker room in the fourth quarter and Lance Stephenson got a second technical foul for taunting. In the midst of all this, there wasn't that much scoring, with James tallying 38 of the Heat's 83 points.
Nevertheless, the Heat and Pacers both went back and forth, with Miami seemingly in control before the final minutes. But when Miami went cold, Indiana's newest addition, Evan Turner, got the two baskets that gave the Pacers the lead for good. Once Indiana went up by 84-80 on a David West three, that appeared to be the ball game.
Chris Bosh then kept the Heat alive with a three-pointer with under three seconds left. George Hill helped further by missing two free throws, giving Miami the chance to win. However, despite being the only hot hand all night for the Heat, James passed the ball to Bosh for the game-winning shot, which he couldn't hit.
The Pacers were more balanced with Paul George's 23 points, Hibbert's 21 and Stephenson's 15 before he was ejected. Being at home seemed to help, as the Pacers hope it will help in a possible Eastern Conference finals rematch. Now that the Pacers are three games ahead of the Heat for the No. 1 seed with 10 games left -- one of which is in Miami in two weeks -- that home court advantage is within reach.
If Miami wasn't under .500 in March, it could have seized the No. 1 seed by now. Likewise, if Indiana hadn't hit its first speed bumps of the season this month, the race could have been over in earnest by now. If the Pacers and Heat don't start rounding back into form, against opponents other than each other, then perhaps their conference final showdown might not be so inevitable.