- Michael Wallace, ESPN Staff Writer
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Heat star LeBron James took exception Sunday to Pacers coach Frank Vogel referring to Miami as "just the next team" standing between Indiana and a shot at an NBA title.
Vogel made the statement during his postgame news conference Saturday after the Pacers closed out the Knicks in Game 6 of the conference semifinals, setting up a rematch with the Heat. Miami defeated Indiana in the conference semis last season on its way to the NBA title.
"We're not just another team," James said. "I don't understand what he's saying. But we're not just another team. That's not true. He said we're just another team in their way. We're a great team. If we're just another team, you really don't prepare for just another team. You have to prepare for us."
This marks the second straight postseason the Heat and Pacers have engaged in a war of words before facing each other. Vogel was fined $15,000 last spring for saying the Heat were "the biggest flopping team in the NBA." Indiana took a 2-1 series lead before the Heat won the next three games while playing without injured center Chris Bosh.
James said his ears perked up when he heard Vogel's postgame remarks Saturday night after the Knicks series.
The Heat and Pacers play Game 1 on Wednesday, a series that starts six days after Miami ousted the Chicago Bulls in five games.
"We're very confident," James said. "We'll be ready for them. We don't need bulletin-board material. We've heard everything, we've seen everything. But I would say we're not just another team, though."
The Pacers won two of their three regular-season games against the Heat, with both of their wins by double figures coming in Indiana after dominating in the paint.
After losing in Indiana on Feb. 1, Miami then went on the second-longest winning streak in NBA history with 27 consecutive victories, including a 105-91 win against Indiana.
Last year's playoff showdown included plenty of taunting, flagrant fouls and extremely physical play.
At one point during the series, then-Pacers team president Larry Bird referred to his team as soft for the way it stumbled after taking an early lead and stealing homecourt advantage.
James said he expects much of the same intensity when the teams meet this time with a trip to the NBA Finals at stake. This is the Heat's third straight trip to the conference finals; Indiana is there for the first time since 2004.
"We're ready for whatever," James said. "I believe it's going to be like last series. They're going to try to put me on the floor, maybe. Be physical with me, maybe. I don't know. Every team kind of does the same thing. They kind of read what everyone else talks about [and say], 'You have to beat up the Heat to beat them.' We'll see what happens."
8dEthan Sherwood Strauss