The Eastern Conference has been dominated by two teams all season – the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers.
Miami (53-25) went on a four-game winning streak after losing to Indiana, 84-83, in their last match-up on March 26, before losing the past three of four.
The Heat will be without Dwyane Wade, who will miss his ninth straight game due to a hamstring injury, and Greg Oden, who is recovering from back spasms, when the teams play each other for the fourth time this season tonight, with the No. 1 seed on the line.
“It’s going to be intense,” Heat forward Chris Bosh said (via Associated Press). “It’s going to be a hard-fought game. There’s something at stake. It’ll pretty much be the playoffs and I think it’ll be a great atmosphere. …We expect them at their best. Everybody we play, we expect them at their best because that’s what we get.”
Indiana owns a half-game lead over the Heat in the East and controls the tiebreaker, winning two of the three matchups so far this season. If they win tonight, the magic number to clinch the top seed would be at one.
A win by Miami puts the Heat back into first place of the Eastern Conference by a half-game.
Heat vs. Pacers season head-t0-head results:
Dec. 10 – Miami at Indiana (Pacers won 90-84)
Dec. 18 – Indiana at Miami (Miami won 97-94)
March 26 – Miami at Indiana (Pacers won 84-83)
April 11 – Indiana at Miami (TBD – 7:30 p.m. ET on NBA TV)