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Pacers regain control over Heat for top playoff spot in East

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It didn’t take long for the Miami Heat to throw away the advantage they had gained over Indiana in the Eastern Conference race with their Friday night win over the Pacers.

After taking a half-game lead overall and one-game advantage in the “lost” column in the East standings by beating the Pacers 98-86, the Heat lost 98-85 in Atlanta the very next night to put the Pacers back into control of their fate.

The Pacers then hung on for a 102-97 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder Sunday afternoon to move within one game of the East title.

To capture the conference, the Heat must win both of their remaining games -- Monday night at Washington or at home Wednesday night against the Philadelphia 76ers -- and hope the Pacers lost at Orlando Wednesday in their regular-season finale.

The Pacers are 2-1 against the Magic this season with the loss 93-92 back on Jan. 3 in Orlando.

If the Heat lose to the Wizards, it’s over.

And the Heat will have nobody to blame but themselves.

Even with all-star guard Dwyane Wade back in the lineup after missing the previous nine games with an injured hamstring, the Heat put forth an embarrassing effort.

Wade played 23 minutes and scored 24 points on 10-of-14 shooting, but the rest of the lineup was only 25-of-59 (42.4 percent). The Heat as a team committed 20 turnovers that led to 29 points for the Hawks, who were charged with only four turnovers.

After overcoming a nine-point deficit in the second quarter to pull into a 49-49 tie at the halftime break, the Heat went back into a funk. They scored only 36 points in the second half and a mere 13 in the third quarter, which put them in a 69-62 deficit heading into the final period.

Six points were as close as the Heat were able to come in the final 12 minutes, and the Hawks, who clinched a playoff berth with the win, led by double digits for most of the last four minutes.

LeBron James pulled the Heat to within eight points at 88-80 with 2:04 remaining and was fouled on the play, but he missed the free throw. Louis Williams then scored seven consecutive unanswered points on a short driving jumper, two free throws, and a 3-pointer to clinch it for the Hawks.

The Heat are 2-1 against the Wizards with both of their wins coming in Miami. They lost big, 114-97, to the Wizards in Washington back on Jan. 15.

The Heat are 1-1 against the 76ers with both of the games played in Philadelphia.

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