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Heat vs. Pacers
At least one Eastern Conference semifinal series in the NBA playoffs will go a full seven games, and the second-seeded Miami Heat will try to avoid duplicating that scenario on Thursday when they visit the third-seeded Indiana Pacers in Game 6. The Heat (-3) lead the series 3-2 after dominating the last two games but will be without a couple players when they take the court at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
Miami's Udonis Haslem and Dexter Pittman were both suspended for their actions in a 115-83 rout of the Pacers in Game 5 on Tuesday, as each committed retaliatory flagrant fouls after Indiana's Tyler Hansbrough fouled Heat star Dwyane Wade hard and opened up a cut over his eye. Hansbrough was not disciplined while the loss of Haslem and Pittman hurts Miami's depth in the frontcourt since the team is already playing without Chris Bosh due to an abdominal strain.
Bosh remains out for Game 6 but still hopes to return later in the playoffs if the Heat survive. Right now, they are just hoping to avoid a Game 7, which is what the fourth-seeded Boston Celtics will face on Saturday after losing 82-75 on the road to the eighth-seeded Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday. The Celtics are 17-4 in Game 7s at home in the playoffs, but they lost to Philadelphia in a similar situation 30 years ago.
As for Indiana, team president Larry Bird called his players "soft" after the Game 5 loss, and they will have to figure out how to take advantage of Miami inside without Haslem and Pittman there. The Pacers have continued to put more pressure on Wade and LeBron James, but neither player has melted, only getting stronger as the series has gone on. James has averaged 35 points, 14 rebounds and 8.5 assists in the last two games and appears ready to close out Indiana on its home floor. The Pacers did not have one player with more than 11 points in Game 5, and leading scorer Danny Granger is hobbled by a bad ankle even though he has vowed to play in Game 6.
The Heat have easily covered the spread in the last two games after Indiana beat the line in the previous two. The OVER has also cashed in the past two following three straight UNDERs. The home team also has not won consecutive games in this series so far, which does not bode well for the Pacers as they attempt to stave off elimination and force a Game 7 on Saturday.
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