Miami Heat Index: Indiana Pacers

LeBron's Game 7 formula

June, 3, 2013
6/03/13
2:54
PM ET
Windhorst By Brian Windhorst
ESPN.com
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MIAMI -- Three times in his 10-year career, LeBron James has experienced the unique pressure of a Game 7, and three times he’s delivered performances expected of a player of his stature.

But the difference between winning and losing such a vital game has usually not been about him, but about his teammates.

James’ numbers in Game 7s -- one with the Cleveland Cavaliers in Detroit in 2006 in the conference semifinals, one with the Cavs in Boston in 2008 in the same round and last year against the Celtics in the conference finals in Miami -- are fantastic: 34.3 points and 8.3 rebounds per game on 45 percent shooting.

But two others numbers stick out. James has averaged 6.7 assists in his 130 career playoff games. But in those three Game 7s: just 3.3 assists. Which also has something to do with his record in them: 1-2.

In his first Game 7 with the Cavs, the Pistons held his team to 61 points. Other than James, the rest of that Cavs starting lineup managed just 16 points combined. In his ’08 classic Game 7 duel with Paul Pierce, when both topped 40 points, James had only one other teammate score in double figures. That was Delonte West, who had 15 points.

Last year, the first time James tasted Game 7 success, it was with getting 23 points from Dwyane Wade and 19 from Chris Bosh. Shane Battier made four 3-pointers as well.

The formula to advance for James when the Heat face the Indiana Pacers tonight may come down to that. He may be able to play a great game, he may put up huge scoring numbers, but to be successful, he’s probably going to need help and probably going to need to give his teammates the chance to help.

“If we’re trying to figure that out now, we’re in trouble,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We have deep playoff runs where we’ve worked that out. We’re a stronger team when everybody is involved.”

Over the last two games, James has averaged 24 shots while Bosh and Wade have averaged just 14 combined, and the Heat have averaged just 84 points. In the first four games of the series, when Wade and Bosh were averaging a combined 26 shots, James averaged 19 and the Heat averaged 101 points.

That’s the tension that is pressing on James and the Heat. He’s expected to dominate a moment like this, but taking too much control could be a poor choice.

“It’s never been like that in team sports history. We can’t just sit around and expect LeBron to do all the work and hope that he has a 50-point game,” Bosh said. “We have to do our part.”

That, of course, is a challenge with both Wade and Bosh struggling. Wade has scored just 20 points total in the last two games and Bosh is in the midst of his biggest scoring slump since his rookie season in 2003-04. James has noticed and he’s been pulling away from them in the last few games.

James sent off some alarm bells after Game 5, which the Heat won, when he compared his team’s current style of play to the way it was when he played in Cleveland. In Cleveland, James never won a Game 7.

“We spent a lot of time trying to get on the same page about it,” Spoelstra said. “They’re big-game guys. The bright lights inspire them more than shrink them. This is why this team was put together.”

The track record says James will deliver a big game. But the track record also says he’ll need help and he’ll need to allow help from his teammates if the Heat are going to beat a strong Pacers team.

“To have one game to advance to the NBA Finals and there's two teams that's in this position, you can't substitute this feeling,” James said. “We should all cherish this moment.”

The Dwyane Wade problem 

June, 3, 2013
6/03/13
11:12
AM ET
Haberstroh By Tom Haberstroh
ESPN Insider
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In reviewing Dwyane Wade’s Game 6 performance -- after which he complained that he wasn’t getting enough opportunities to succeed -- there are two shots that stand out.

The first came in the opening four minutes of the game Saturday against the Pacers. LeBron James passed to Wade on the right baseline with 10 seconds left on the shot clock. James cleared out of the way for Wade, which allowed Wade to go at Lance Stephenson one-on-one. With his teammates retreating to the opposite side, Wade casually posted Stephenson up on the right block, dribbled three times, turned his right shoulder into traffic and found himself looking straight into David West’s armpit.

Uh oh. Now faced with a double-team, Wade tried a maneuver he’s successfully done throughout his career: draw contact and the shooting foul. Instead, West and Stephenson stood straight up and Wade flailed his arms wildly on a layup trying to get the whistle. While Wade was falling toward the basket, West already had snatched the ball away and begun to lead the Pacers’ fastbreak.

Will LeBron take out frustration on Pacers?

May, 30, 2013
5/30/13
2:11
PM ET
Windhorst By Brian Windhorst
ESPN.com
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MIAMI -- Get ready for an angry LeBron James in tonight’s pivotal Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Indiana Pacers.

James has been fuming the past few days after he was called for four fouls in the fourth quarter of the Miami Heat’s Game 4 loss that evened the series 2-2. He fouled out for just the second time in his career in a playoff game, and it came with a technical foul. James disputed three of those calls, and a review of the replays didn’t do much to ease his frustration.

On Thursday, his miserable finish to Game 4 was compounded by being fined $5,000 for flopping on a fourth-quarter play against Pacers forward David West. Add that retroactive penalty, and that fourth quarter in Indianapolis easily qualifies as the most penal quarter in James’ career.

That fine fired James up more because he believed West got away with a flop at the end of the third quarter when James was whistled for an offensive foul. That turned into a key play because the Pacers hit a 3-pointer just ahead of the buzzer with the extra possession to extend their lead.

Also bothering James was the belief that he had allowed the Pacers’ Lance Stephenson to get under his skin. Stephenson guarded James for stretches Tuesday night because James’ primary defender, Paul George, had gotten into his own foul trouble. Stephenson baited James into his technical and, as is his reputation, was disruptive at other times.

James bristled at even being asked about the matchup.

“If you are sitting here and talking about an individual one-on-one matchup between me and Lance Stephenson, I'm not going to harp on that,” James said.

Expect James to channel that emotion into the pivotal Game 5. Last season, after he fouled out of Game 4 in the conference finals against the Boston Celtics on a controversial offensive positioning foul that contributed to the Heat’s overtime loss, James responded with a venomous tear for the rest of that series.

He averaged 35.3 points and 13.3 rebounds the next three games, ultimately carrying the Heat into the Finals.

One of the noticeable differences in James’ game since his much-criticized struggles in the 2010-11 Finals is the way he approaches big playoff games. Earlier in his career, James sometimes played passively in these situations, and it led to plenty of questions about his ability to deliver in the clutch.

It has been a different James the past two seasons, especially in the late rounds of the playoffs.

“We’re excited for Game 5” was all James would say publicly. “We’re a confident bunch.”

The Heat have generally responded well to losses in the past two postseasons. They are 4-0 after losses dating to last season's conference finals. The Heat’s average margin of victory after losses to the Chicago Bulls and Pacers in the playoffs is 27.5 points.

“The main thing is how you respond to competition,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We understand the effort level and the energy level we’re going to have to bring, and we’re looking forward to that.”

Can Indiana beat Miami when it matters?

May, 28, 2013
5/28/13
11:23
AM ET
Windhorst By Brian Windhorst
ESPN.com
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PacersAndy Lyons/Getty ImagesCan the Pacers pull even with the Heat?
INDIANAPOLIS -- Every year we are reminded of the reductive nature of the NBA playoffs. The fizz of the regular season just blows right off when teams are put to the test repeatedly against top competition.

It’s been one year full of roster moves, player development, strategy changes, dozens of practices and about 90 preseason, regular-season and playoff games. Through all that, it’s back to the exact same question of a year ago: Can the Indiana Pacers beat the Miami Heat when it really matters?

Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals will provide a simple yes or no. All that time, money and work comes down to it.

If the Heat win, it’s 3-1 going back to Miami and it’s probably curtains for the Pacers as everyone can set their schedules for a Heat-San Antonio Spurs Finals to start in Miami on June 6.

If the Pacers win, the circumstances shift significantly and it morphs into a three-game series in which each team has proved it can win on the other’s court.

Furthermore, the Pacers would have proved they can beat the Heat under duress, something they were unable to do last season. They couldn’t handle it when the Heat went chest-to-chest with them after they achieved a 2-1 series lead.

The indications after Sunday night weren’t great for Indiana. The Heat clearly went into the game playing at their highest level, as they did last season for Games 4-6, when they knocked the Pacers to their heels, and it was the same result. The Pacers had no answer for the rotating punches of the Heat’s waves of talent, and Indiana’s once-strong spirits took a beating.

The Pacers' entire season will pretty much come down to whether they can respond with this second chance in roughly the same predicament they were in last year. That’s an unfriendly reality, but that’s what it is.

“They’re a great team, there’s a reason they won all those games,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “We’re going to have to play our best game to beat them, but I have confidence we can do that.”

The Pacers were a little shell-shocked in the wake of Game 3. They came home with the series 1-1 convinced they had closed the gap with the Heat. But when Miami’s offense -- which statistically was one of the best the league has seen in the past decade during the regular season -- finally kicked into gear, the Pacers staggered.

It wasn’t exactly a lack of respect or a classic rope-a-dope, but the effect was the same. The Heat snapped to attention and deployed their weapons, and the Pacers went from giddy to sober to sullen. LeBron James was killing it in the post, Dwyane Wade was killing it in the pick-and-roll and the Heat’s legion of shooters collectively ended a recent slump.

“We have our work cut out for us,” said Pacers center Roy Hibbert, who had led the team’s optimism wagon after the first two games of the series. “It’s very hard to win when they play like that.”

The Pacers had a long workday on Memorial Day. Vogel hinted at making some defensive changes to deal with the challenges Miami has presented them. He said he went over them with his assistant coaches in a brainstorming session.

Then the team held an extended film session -- the Heat held their film session and wrapped their brief practice before the Pacers were even out of their locker room -- followed by a long practice.

“It's probably the most difficult offense to prepare for in the NBA today,” Vogel said. “That's a challenge we have ahead of us.”

The Pacers were the No. 1-ranked defensive team in the regular season and shut down the New York Knicks’ strong offense in the previous round. But through three games in this series, the Heat are averaging 103 points and shooting 50 percent from the field.

They are giving the Pacers looks and plays they are not used to, such as starting sets with all five players beyond the 3-point line and using atypical pick-and-roll combinations. It has taken the Pacers out of their comfort zone defensively, which has been Miami’s highly effective strategy all season.

“We’ve got to stay the course and rely on our abilities and what got us here,” Pacers forward David West said. “We can’t overreact. We’ve got to believe our defense will hold.”

This is the first series in which the Pacers have trailed this postseason, and it was evident in their mood. Technically, their season is not yet on the brink, but there was no mistaking they were going to look at Game 4 like it was an elimination game.

“We saw what Miami looked like with their backs against the wall in coming here, having lost home-court advantage,” Vogel said. “Now it's our turn to come out and show what we look like with our backs against the wall.”


George vs. LeBron: NBA's next great rivalry

May, 24, 2013
5/24/13
8:14
AM ET
Windhorst By Brian Windhorst
ESPN.com
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LeBron James
NBAE/Getty ImagesLeBron James and Paul George both made big plays in Game 1.
MIAMI -- Paul George will never forget that moment in 2009 when, as a skinny 19-year-old, he found himself guarding the reigning NBA Most Valuable Player in a pickup game.

Every year, LeBron James hosts the top high school players in the country at a Nike-sponsored camp. Many top college players are also there as “counselors.” In reality, it’s a recruitment fest for college coaches and a chance for Nike to develop ties with talent they one day may try to hire as endorsers.

One of the highlights every year, both for the few spectators allowed in and certainly the young men themselves, is when James suits up and takes on the teenagers in pickup games. It’s common that he’ll bring some NBA friends to those games including, at times, fellow superstar Chris Paul.

It was in one of these moments that George ended up not only fulfilling a dream by sharing the court with James but actually drawing the defensive assignment against him. After a good freshman season at Fresno State, George was invited to the camp and once there was given the wave over to the court where James was playing.

“I like challenges and it was a challenge,” George said. “It was my first time playing against someone of his nature. It was fun. I took a lot away from it.”

There was no way either of them realized back then that this was going to be the first of many showdowns.

And it will indeed be many because, even if it may not be getting the proper attention now, James versus George is almost assured to be the newest great rivalry in the NBA.

At age 28 and in his prime after winning his fourth MVP, James isn’t going anywhere. At age 23 off his first All-Star season and his first appearance on the All-NBA team, neither is George. They are already playing their second playoff series against each other and their teams both have aspirations of being back playing deep into the playoffs for the foreseeable future.

In Wednesday’s Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, they traded off making huge plays for their teams in the fourth quarter and overtime. George had a brilliant three-point play driving right through James, then followed it up with a clutch 3-pointer over him at the end of regulation that forced overtime.

James got him back by securing a crucial rebound in overtime by outleaping George. Then, in one of the biggest plays yet in the postseason, James burned George on the game’s final play by driving past him to the rim for the game-winning layup at the buzzer. George had taken a bad angle and James crushed the error, leaving George up thinking about the mistake until after 4 a.m.

As satisfying as their Game 1 dueling performances were -- James had 30 points and George 27 -- it was just the preamble. Both in this series and in what figures to be years to come.

They are already two of the best perimeter defenders in the league and they play the same position. That means they’re going to end up spending lots of time guarding each other in pressure situations in important games.

“He’s going to be a great one,” James said. “I thought he had some unbelievable talent back [in 2009] when I met him. He went to a school that no one really paid attention to. But I’m one of those guys who stays up late at night and watches those games. I knew him.”

James got the better of George in the playoffs last season. Though he split the defensive duties with Danny Granger, when James and Dwyane Wade went on a three-game scoring binge to win that second-round series, plenty of it came at the expense of the still-learning George.

But George's rapid improvement really caught James’ eye a few months later in Shanghai when he impressed James in some workouts and exhibitions on a Nike promotional tour last summer.

Now George has James and the Heat’s full attention.

“He’s improving every time I see him play,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Every time I see him he looks taller. He has a unique skill set for his size.”

That’s what makes this budding rivalry so intriguing, because of how much George and James are alike. They are listed at 6-foot-8 but are actually probably 6-9 or perhaps even taller in George’s case. They both have terrific quickness and versatility defensively. They both are their team’s leading scorers and best passers. They’re both strong rebounders. It says it all that they’re the only two players in the East to have a triple-double in the postseason.

It just has the look and feel that it’s the start of something.

“His coach and his teammates trust him with a lot of responsibility,” James said. “They’ve given him a lot of opportunity.”

“The more I guard him, the more I’ll understand his game,” George said. “With LeBron, you’ve got to be on your toes.”

George is not as dynamic an offensive player as James at this point. While James has taken leaps in his shooting and overall efficiency in recent years, George struggles at times with shot selection and is known to battle turnover problems.

Then again, Wednesday was James’ 23rd career conference finals game. It was George’s first. They don’t compete totally on an equal footing from a skill development or experience standpoint.

At least not yet.

“I’ve got a lot of potential left,” George said. “I’m 23 with ambitions of being great in this league and I won’t stop until I get there.”


The imminent return of the LeBron floater

May, 21, 2013
5/21/13
6:56
PM ET
Haberstroh By Tom Haberstroh
ESPN.com
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LeBron James
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images
Don't be surprised if LeBron James breaks out his floater against Roy Hibbert and the Indiana Pacers.

MIAMI – For the past several weeks, LeBron James has finished up his daily routine at practice by shooting free throws with Ray Allen. Every practice, same thing.

But on Tuesday, things were different.

A day ahead of their Eastern Conference finals matchup against Roy Hibbert and the Indiana Pacers, James was at his normal basket at the Miami Heat’s practice court, but Allen was on another hoop, practicing his 3-point shot on his own. Instead of trading free throws with Allen, James was working with Heat assistant coach David Fizdale and point guard Mario Chalmers on a different shot:

The running floater in the lane.

Yes, the same one he unleashed out of nowhere against Hibbert last playoffs and used to help push the Heat over the top in six games.

James' goal on Tuesday was obvious: to polish his Hibbert arsenal.

“I just dust it off when I need it,” James said of his rarely-seen floater.

This was the first and only day that James has put in extra work on it this season. James started from the top of the key, barreled down the middle of the paint and launched in the air for a floater. He’d do that a few times and then switch angles. Starting from the baseline, James took a dribble on the move and then soared across the lane to drop a running hook. Over and over again.

The only thing that was missing was a 7-foot-2 cardboard cutout standing at the rim.

James knows he’ll need his full repertoire against the Pacers’ front line for this upcoming series. No, the thinking isn’t to only drop floaters in the lane. Rather, it’s to keep Hibbert honest. No more allowing Hibbert to camp out around the rim and wait for intruders. The Heat want Hibbert on the move and guessing.

“He won’t just have one look,” James said after Tuesday’s practice. “We have to be able to give him different looks to keep him off balance.”

James unveiled the crafty shot in the third quarter of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals last season, just minutes after Chris Bosh left the game with an abdominal strain that sidelined him for weeks. James turned the corner after a high pick-and-roll with Udonis Haslem and made his way to the rim as Hibbert sidestepped off Ronny Turiaf to park himself underneath the basket.

That’s where Hibbert waited for James. But instead of trying to shoot through the 7-foot-2 giant, James hopped off two feet halfway into the lane, rose up and tossed the ball high into the air. Swish. From then on, James went to that shot without hesitation, and it proved to be a handy weapon against Hibbert's size.

Remember James' monster Game 4 against the Pacers when he registered 40 points, 18 rebounds and nine assists? James used his devastating floater on multiple occasions in that furious comeback alongside Dwyane Wade, but James also punished the Pacers with 16 free throws. James still attacked the rim and racked up fouls against Hibbert, but he needed the reliable floater to keep Hibbert from getting too comfortable in the paint.

Typically, James will use his otherworldly athleticism and strength to overwhelm his opponent like a wrecking ball. But there will be times when he'll need technique and grace to keep opposing big men on their toes. So for James in this series against Hibbert and the No. 1-ranked defense in the league this season, the key will be variety, not velocity.

James knows Hibbert doesn't want to be dragged away from the basket. He paid close attention to the Knicks-Pacers series and it resonated with him when Hibbert rose up for that iconic block on Carmelo Anthony at the rim in the decisive Game 6 (James called it "a very good block" on Tuesday). James watched every minute of the series during which the Knicks' percentage of shots in the restricted area plummeted from 39.5 percent with Hibbert on the bench to just 30.5 percent with him in the game, according to NBA.com/Stats.

This is the Hibbert effect, and James wants to neutralize it with as many weapons as he can. The floater, you can expect, will be one of them.

Heat ride streak into Sunday showdown

March, 9, 2013
3/09/13
2:52
AM ET
Wallace By Michael Wallace
ESPN.com
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MIAMI -- Seventeen down.

One to go.

Actually, the Miami Heat have 22 regular-season games left after running their winning streak to 17 in a row with Friday's 102-93 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers.

But there's essentially one game that garners more attention than any of the rest – or, for that matter, any of the previous ones the Heat have played over the past five weeks.

Friday's win allowed Miami to match the NBA's longest winning streak of the season, which was initially set when the Los Angeles Clippers ran off 17 straight victories from late November through the end of December. The Heat's streak started after a blowout loss on Feb. 1 in Indiana that improved the Pacers to 2-0 this season against Miami.

So even as some players were drying off from postgame showers after beating Philadelphia, many had already worked up a lather as the focus shifted to the Pacers.

For some, the streak means very little if it isn't punctuated with a statement Sunday against the one team in the league against whom the Heat have yet to redeem themselves.

The Heat have already avenged earlier losses to the Clippers, Bulls, Grizzlies and Knicks during the longest winning streak in franchise history. Sunday presents an opportunity to cross the final nemesis off their list.

“It was already more than just a game, after the first two (losses),” Heat center Chris Bosh said of the Pacers. “After they beat us pretty good, them and New York, we've had these days circled for some time. So forget about the winning streak. You can take that away. If we lost a few in a row, we'd still be ready for Sunday.”

The level of stock the Heat are putting into the third meeting against the Pacers varies depending on which player spoke late Friday night. From a team-wide perspective, coach Erik Spoelstra told reporters he wouldn't divulge the extent of his postgame talk with the team.

But there was no way to hide the sentiment. Anchored by 7-2 center Roy Hibbert, 6-9 rugged power forward David West and All-Star swingman Paul George, the Pacers are essentially constructed as the anti-Heat. In their two double-digit victories over Miami, the Pacers won the rebounding battle by an average of 14 boards and limited the NBA's most efficient offense to 83 points a game.

Indiana has been motivated to show it can measure up better this season after squandering a 2-1 series lead and losing to the Heat in six games during the Eastern Conference semifinals last season. That highly-charged playoff series was filled with trash talk, flagrant fouls and both teams having to face and overcome internal strife.

Bosh sustained a strained abdominal muscle in Game 1 and would miss the rest of the series. Heat guard Dwyane Wade was dealing with a severely sore knee that had to be drained during the series, and his frustrations boiled over in a heated exchange with Spoelstra during a Game 3 loss.

But the Pacers also showed they couldn't quite handle the prosperity of having the Heat on the ropes. After losing Games 4 and 5, then-Pacers executive Larry Bird told the Indianapolis Star that his team was, “soft. S-O-F-T.”

“It really was the equivalent of a seven-game physical series,” Spoelstra said. “With another year of experience, that team has gained more confidence, they've gotten better and they've played two great games against us – and they deserved to win both times.”

Sunday's showdown has the Heat's full attention.

“I won't share the extent of the conversation we had as a team, but we're all aware that they absolutely pounded us, beat us up,” Spoelstra said of the first two meetings this season with Indiana. “What else do you want to say? Each game is its own challenge, but this is one that everybody gets what they want Sunday. Fans get a game they think is compelling. Indiana wants to play us and compete against us, and we want to compete against them.”

The defending champion Heat have already secured their spot in the postseason by clinching a playoff spot with Friday's win. They also have an eight-game lead over the second-place Pacers in the conference standings. Put there's still a point or two the Heat want to prove – both to themselves and to potential postseason opponents.

Miami's coaches and players felt they passed a significant test on March 1 when they beat Memphis, 98-91, and held their own the second time against the Grizzlies' big frontline led by Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. The Grizzlies and Pacers play a similar physical style, so the Heat hope to build from that confidence-boosting performance.

Rebounding remains one of the Heat's few weaknesses, but it is a strength for the Pacers.

“The first game, they smacked us pretty good. The second game, we had a change, but they did more than us to win the game,” Wade said. “Now, it's our turn. We're at home. We have to take care of business. Every team that's beaten us, especially since the (All-Star) break, we've tried to redeem ourselves and play a lot better.”

About the only player in the Heat's locker room who downplayed the significance of Sunday's matchup was LeBron James. He quickly shot down the notion his team has much to prove and suggested that the Boston Celtics – not the Pacers – are the Heat's biggest rival in the East.

The outcome of Sunday's game, James intimated, has absolutely no bearing on what happens when – or if – they meet in the playoffs with a trip to the NBA Finals at stake.

“We don't need to make no statement against no team,” James said. “We know where we stand when it counts. But we want to play well and continue to get better against a very good team coming into our building. You always want to hold serve on our home court. This will be a good test for us, and we look forward to it.”

Haslem back to work after suspension

May, 26, 2012
5/26/12
5:24
PM ET
Wallace By Michael Wallace
ESPN.com
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MIAMI - After serving a one-game suspension for his flagrant foul during the Heat's series against the Indiana Pacers, forward Udonis Haslem was back at work Saturday with his teammates.

Haslem was suspended for Game 6 of the Heat-Pacers series after he took down Pacers forward Tyler Hansbrough during the Heat's 32-point victory in Game 5 on Tuesday in Miami. Haslem traveled with the team to Indiana for Game 6, but the suspension prevented him from attending the game.

So instead, Haslem said Saturday he spent the evening in a suite watching the game at the downtown hotel where the Heat stayed in Indianapolis. Haslem got through the game like most fans - he grabbed a sports drink and a couple of bags of chips while sitting on the sofa.

He regretted not being there for his team, but not necessarily for taking up for teammate Dwyane Wade, who was fouled hard by Hansbrough on a previous play in Game 5 and was also assessed a flagrant-1 foul that was later upgraded to a flagrant-2 penalty.

In the video above, Haslem talks about being back on the court with his teammates as they prepare for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Monday. He also discussed what it felt like when Wade delivered him the game ball from the Heat's series-clinching victory over the Pacers as players boarded the team flight Thursday back to Miami.

Wade said Saturday he appreciates having Haslem at his side and revealed how deep their relationship runs.

"The biggest thing, I think, for all of us is we understand how much Udonis means to all of us," Wade said. "The foul that he took, you know, in a sense, was a foul for us. Obviously, he took a hard foul and got suspended for a game. With him not playing, we told him we were going to go out there and take care of business. I respect him, what the other captain brought - that toughness for our team."

Wade hopes Haslem stores the game ball away in a nice place. The two have been teammates with the Heat since they came into the league together in 2003. They are the only current members of the team from the 2005-06 championship season.

"For me, it's like having a big brother when you're going to school," Wade said. "You know ain't nobody going to mess with you. And if they do, you'll be calling your big brother."

Because of that, Wade said he tried not to react too angrily after he was fouled by Hansbrough. Wade sensed his most loyal teammate might not take it too well. Haslem has denied that retaliation was his motivation for the foul on Hansbrough.

"I tried to do my impression of trying to calm everything after I got hit, because I know it was a very physical hit," Wade said. "And I know how certain guys respond to that, when they see a guy kind of go after you. (Haslem) had a very good view of it because he was on the baseline when it happened."

Wade attempted to calm his teammates during a brief huddle.

"I tried to act like it was all good, 'Let's just move on guys,'" Wade said of his message. "But (Haslem) is not that guy. I didn't know that (hard foul on Hansbrough) was coming. But I was hoping that it didn't, because I know how thin we were and, like I said, the second guy always gets caught. But we got our guy back and we're ready to move on."

Haslem opens up, NBA shuts him down

May, 23, 2012
5/23/12
7:43
PM ET
Wallace By Michael Wallace
ESPN.com
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Miami Heat forward Udonis Haslem was suspended one game by the NBA on Wednesday for his flagrant foul on Indiana forward Tyler Hansbrough midway through Game 5.

Haslem will serve the suspension when the teams meet for Game 6 on Thursday in Indiana, with the Heat holding a 3-2 series lead and looking to close out the Pacers.

Haslem was scheduled to travel with the Heat on Wednesday to Indiana, but will not be allowed to attend the game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse as part of the normal suspension terms. The league also suspended Heat reserve center Dexter Pittman for his lunging elbow that took out Pacers reserve guard Lance Stephenson in the final seconds of Tuesday's game.

Both Haslem and Pittman attended the Heat's practice on Wednesday in Miami, although Pittman was not made available to the media after the workout. Haslem, a Heat co-captain, spoke with reporters after practice but before he learned of the NBA's ruling that was announced early Wednesday evening.

Q: What did you think of the team honoring your nine stitches by handing out promotional bandages to fans in Tuesday's game?
Haslem: It was cool. I'm glad they did it. I don't like being stitched up, but it's part of the process.

Q: Do you have any thoughts on what the league might do to you? Have you been in touch with the New York office?
Haslem: Nah. Nah. Yesterday was yesterday and today is today. I came in and I'm getting prepared for the next game with my team. Like I said, I'm waiting to see. But as far as I'm concerned, I'm going to just get ready for the next game.

Q: We saw you over there talking to Pat Riley after practice. What was his message to you?
Haslem: He just told me that yesterday was yesterday and today is today. He told me to just prepare your mind for the next game.

Q: Does the attention on all the hard fouls and rough play take away from the focus that the Heat have a chance to close out this series with a win in Game 6?
Haslem: Not at all. Not at all. It's the playoffs. So there's always some kind of noise. So we'll just focus on going in there, and it's going to be the most hostile environment we've faced so far. So we'll get mentally prepared to go to war.

Q: Is this series playing right into your comfort zone with all of the physical play, momentum swings and intensity?
Haslem: I'm enjoying the competition. Everybody is competing. Everybody is playing hard. It's playoff basketball. Seeds two and three. Eastern Conference ground and pound matchup. So it's a fun series to be a part of.

Q: Danny Granger reportedly said your foul on Hansbrough was as dangerous as Metta World Peace's elbow to James Harden's head. What are your thoughts on that?
Haslem: I'm not interested in no Danny Granger, man. That's why we've got league officials to look over that stuff and make that decision. I'm sure Danny Granger is going to say what he has to say to help his team. So, whatever. It's unfortunate that he feels that way.

Q: What do you think of Larry Bird calling his own team soft?
Haslem: I don't get into that. That's his opinion of his team. He's entitled to his opinion. We've got a game to play. What they're going through over there is between then and what they have going on over there.

Q: What do you expect from the crowd in Indiana?
Haslem: It's going to be a hostile environment. It's going to be a lot of noise. Very high intensity on both sides. It's going to be a highly competitive game.

Q: The fact that they were called Flagrant-1 fouls on the court and left there, do you think the league should respect the referees' decision without any further action?
Haslem: I hope so. I hope so. There's never been a Flagrant-1 that's gone from a Flagrant-1 to a suspension.

Q: You've done the research on that?
Haslem: Yeah. Something like that. But I would hope so. Like I said, those guys (referees) were right there and they saw it. So we'll see what happens.

LeBron: 'I'm always in protect mode'

May, 23, 2012
5/23/12
6:54
PM ET
Wallace By Michael Wallace
ESPN.com
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MIAMI – LeBron James insists he's not concerned about his safety on the court, but does vow to brace for even more hard fouls Thursday in Game 6 of what has become a brutally physical playoff series against the Indiana Pacers.

“It may have gotten to that point. For me, it's always at that point,” James said Wednesday after the Heat wrapped up practice and prepared to travel to Indiana. “I'm always in protect mode. For me, in the playoffs or the regular season, there are teams trying to go for me. It's happened. I'm not saying guys are playing dirty, but certain guys say if you hard foul LeBron, get him off balance, he'll stop being aggressive and things like that.”

After winning consecutive games to overcome an early 2-1 series deficit, the Heat are looking to close out the Pacers in Indiana and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the second straight season. But James and his Heat teammates know they'll likely have a fight on their hands - maybe even literally, considering how rough the play has gotten in the series over the past few games.

Punishment was doled out by the league Wednesday when reserve Heat center Dexter Pittman was suspended three games for his hard foul on Pacers guard Lance Stephenson in the final seconds of Tuesday's game. Heat forward Udonis Haslem was also suspended one game (Game 6) for a flagrant foul on Indiana forward Tyler Hansbrough.

Another byproduct of this rough series is that James and Heat guard Dwyane Wade have attempted 46 and 45 free throws, respectively, through five games against Indiana. What already had been an especially physical series through the first four games turned ugly during the Heat's 115-83 victory in Game 6, which included three flagrant fouls – included the two by Haslem and Pittman that clearly seemed to have been committed in retaliation for earlier actions and antics.

James, who won his third league MVP award this season, said even the threat of suspensions might not drastically alter the rugged tone of a series that has included a total of 234 personal fouls, five conduct-driven technical fouls and four flagrant-1 penalties. James also said he's been a target for hard fouls throughout his nine-year NBA career, and doesn't think the Heat-Pacers series is any different.

Check out the video above to watch James react to the storylines entering Game 6 Thursday at Indiana.

Wade wants Pacers full strength in Game 6

May, 23, 2012
5/23/12
6:36
PM ET
Wallace By Michael Wallace
ESPN.com
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Considering all of the hard fouls, bloody cuts and tough talk that have permeated this brutal playoff series between the Heat and Pacers, it's difficult to imagine a player from one team rooting for anything that has to do with the opposing squad.

But that's exactly where Heat guard Dwyane Wade stands entering Game 6 of this best-of-7 series. Wade said Wednesday he hopes Indiana is as close to full strength as possible when the teams head to Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Thursday night, with the Heat leading 3-2 and having a chance to close out the series.

Why? Well, because Keith Bogans is still haunting Wade after all these years. Yes, Wade still has a sore spot for Kentucky fans who suggest the Wildcats would have knocked off Marquette in the 2003 NCAA Tournament had Bogans been healthy instead of trying to play through a high ankle sprain. Wade went on to notch a triple-double against Kentucky in a performance that not only launched Marquette into the Final Four but also cemented his status as a top-five lottery pick.

So that, in a nutshell, is why Wade wants Pacers' swingman Danny Granger (sprained left ankle) and forward David West (sprained left knee) to recover as quickly as possible from injuries that knocked them out of Miami's Game 5 victory. Granger sat out of the Pacers' practice Wednesday, but West participated in the light workout. Both players are expected to play Thursday.

Wade explains the motivation behind wishing the Pacers well in the video above, and also comments on team president Larry Bird calling his own team "soft."

Hibbert: Expect Wade to bounce back

May, 19, 2012
5/19/12
5:48
PM ET
Wallace By Michael Wallace
ESPN.com
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INDIANAPOLIS - It was a tale of two performances that defined the Indiana Pacers' blowout victory in Game 3 against the Miami Heat.

Pacers center Roy Hibbert had a formidable game while Heat guard Dwyane Wade's performance was flat-out forgettable. As expected, Indiana spent Saturday's practice bracing for what it expects to be a huge bounce-back effort from Wade, who went scoreless in the first half for the first time in 95 career playoff games and finished with just five points and five turnovers.

Meanwhile, the Heat worked Saturday to ensure that Hibbert won't duplicate the kind of impact that led to his career outing with 19 points, 18 rebounds and five blocked shots in Thursday's 94-75 win to take a 2-1 series lead.

"We're going off the mindset ... that D-Wade isn't going to have the kind of night he had in Game 3," Hibbert said after the Pacers' practice Saturday in preparation for Sunday's game. "So we're preparing for him to have a good night, and we'll have to go out there and execute."

Wade missed 11 of his 13 shot attempts and struggled to get into the lane against Indiana's speed and length. Wade also has been dealing with nagging knee and lower-leg injuries that required extensive treatment in recent days.

But with two days off before Game 4, the Pacers expect a more explosive display from Wade. Hibbert insists Indiana will be ready for the challenge, as well as the chance to take a commanding 3-1 lead before the series shifts back to Miami.

"We have some schemes to put him in situations to get the ball out of his hands, and make sure he works on the defensive end," Hibbert said. "I'm not really worried about scoring. I'm really worried about stopping LeBron (James) and D-Wade from getting into the paint."

As for his own game, Hibbert said he can't guarantee another massive double-double like he had in Game 3. But he did vow to focus on two areas.

"I'll tell you one thing: I'm going to rebound and defend," Hibbert said. "Whatever happens after that, happens."

Heat must regroup, recover quickly

May, 18, 2012
5/18/12
2:22
PM ET
Wallace By Michael Wallace
ESPN.com
Archive
INDIANAPOLIS - After cancelling practice and media sessions Friday, the Heat hunkered down in their search for answers to overcome a 2-1 series deficit against the Pacers. With two days to recover and regroup before Game 4 Sunday, I break down where the Heat must go from here.

LeBron James breaks down Heat OT victory

March, 11, 2012
3/11/12
1:42
AM ET
Wallace By Michael Wallace
ESPN.com
Archive
MIAMI - LeBron James hit the shot to tie the game late, provided the defensive stop to send it to overtime, knocked down another huge three to start the final rally, set up Chris Bosh for a jumper to tie it again in overtime and then handed off to Dwyane Wade for the winner.

All in a night's work. LeBron talked at length about the plays he and his teammates made to scratch out a 93-91 overtime victory Saturday against the Indiana Pacers.



LeBron also discussed the key plays he made down the stretch to send it to overtime with a big 3-pointer, a possession that included four passes until a teammate found him spotted up in the corner.



And finally - because he knew the question was going to come - LeBron said it doesn't matter to him whether he shoots or passes. He's all about making game-winning plays. Period.


Spoelstra, Heat prepare for improved Pacers

March, 10, 2012
3/10/12
1:23
PM ET
Wallace By Michael Wallace
ESPN.com
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MIAMI - The Miami Heat have outscored the Indiana Pacers by a combined 50 points in their previous two meetings this season.

And it doesn't add up to anything entering their third matchup tonight at AmericanAirlines Arena. At least, that's how Heat coach Erik Spoelstra approached it as he talked about Miami's challenge against a Pacers team that's pushing for a top-three seed in the East and ranks among the NBA's top 10 in defensive rebounds and points allowed.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Chris Bosh
PTS AST STL MIN
21.1 2.2 0.9 35.4
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsH. Whiteside 9.1
AssistsD. Wade 5.3
StealsM. Chalmers 1.6
BlocksH. Whiteside 2.4