Heat, Pacers tangle in key Eastern Conference battle

Updated: February 1, 2013

The Miami Heat have the most home wins in the East at 18-3,
but there’s another team willing to argue that it’s the best as the host in
the conference.

The Indiana Pacers have won 12 in a row at home and will welcome the defending
champion Heat to Bankers Life Fieldhouse Friday night. The Pacers are 17-3 in
front of the home crowd and continued their success there with a 98-79 victory
Wednesday versus the Detroit Pistons in the opener of a four-game homestand.

Roy Hibbert recorded a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds, while
Tyler Hansbrough and Lance Stephenson also posted double-doubles for Indiana,
which halted a three-game slide and is riding the longest home winning streak
since a 14-gamer back in 2002-03. Hansbrough compiled 14 points and 11
rebounds, and Stephenson added 12 points and 11 boards.

“I’m proud of our guys coming off a trip and taking care of business,” Pacers
coach Frank Vogel said. “We had an edge which is important when you have a
losing streak.”

Vogel’s squad missed its first three shots of the game, then made 11 of the
next 15 from the field for a 29-23 edge after 12 minutes. The Pacers won two
of the final three periods en route to the victory.

Indiana is 50-18 in the last 68 regular season games at home and hasn’t lost
there since Dec. 7 versus Denver.

The Pacers are playing nine of 10 games at home and still have Chicago and
Atlanta scheduled to visit the Fieldhouse. They are expected to wear retro
pinstripe uniforms Friday night and received good news on star forward Danny
Granger. Granger has been out all season with a balky knee and has increased
his activity level and decreased his rest in between, according to the team’s
official website.

Stephenson is listed as questionable Friday with a sprained left ankle.

Miami rebounded from a tough double-overtime loss at Boston by delivering a
105-85 beating on the Brooklyn Nets Wednesday night in the second portion of a
four-game road trip.

LeBron James registered 24 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, and Dwyane
Wade chipped in 21 points for Miami, which won for the sixth time in eight
tries and pushed its record to 11-10 outside of south Florida. Chris Bosh
added 16 points in the victory.

“We’re playing at a high level,” James said.”We showed tonight what we’re
capable of both offensively and defensively. We had the whole package

Miami shot 51.8 percent from the floor and improved to 17-2 when shooting at
least 50 percent. The Heat put the game away with a 36-14 advantage in the
third quarter and also buried 11-of-19 from 3-point range. Including the
playoffs, the Heat are unbeaten in the last 25 games when hitting 10 or more

The Heat have won three of their last four road games and will close out the
current junket Sunday at Toronto.

In milestone news, James is 93 points shy of 5,000 as a member of the Heat and
the team is six wins short of 1,000 in franchise history.

Miami lost the first meeting with Indiana, 87-77, on Jan. 8 at the Fieldhouse
and will host the Pacers March 10. The Heat have won nine of 12 and 10 of the
last 15 meetings with Indiana, winners in 16 of the last 20 as the host in
this series.