7:00 PM ET, December 18, 2013
AmericanAirlines Arena, Miami, FL
Just over a week after their first meeting of the season, the top teams in the Eastern Conference battle again.
There's a chance the game's best player will be sitting it out.
"I've had my fair share of ankle twists so I already knew how it was going to be today," James said Tuesday. "Very stiff, very sore, it'll be around the clock treatment with Mike (Mancias, his trainer) and we'll go from there."
James suffered the injury Monday during the third quarter of a 117-94 win over Utah. Though he was removed from the game after rolling his ankle, James did return in the fourth quarter and finished with 30 points, nine rebounds and nine assists.
"I'm day to day, and we'll see what happens," said James, who admitted he has previously healed quickly from sprained ankles. "I didn't step on nobody's foot, my ankle just turned. So it's frustrating."
The Heat will likely need James -- and in top form -- if they are going to extract revenge on Indiana. Last Tuesday, the Pacers protected their home floor and knocked off the Heat 90-84 as they held James to 17 points and a season-worst 6 of 16 from the field.
The teams have met in the playoffs each of the past two seasons, with their latest series in the Eastern Conference finals reaching seven games. Miami won the deciding contest at home, but a potential Game 7 would come in Indiana this season if the current standings don't change.
The Pacers (20-4) have run out to the best record in the conference, with the Heat (18-6) directly on their heels. No other team in the East is more than a game above .500.
Indiana may have been peeking ahead to the rematch in Miami in its latest game, falling 101-96 to Detroit on Monday for its first home loss of the season.
"A loss like this brings us back to reality," said Paul George, who was 4 of 14 from the field and has shot 27.0 percent in the last three games. "We can't turn it on, we can't have a switch when we want to. Teams are getting up and getting ready to play us, so we have to match that energy and prepare like they're the team to beat."
Indiana (20-4) will be facing what could be a pumped-up, angry Heat team. Not only did the Pacers beat them last week, but guard Lance Stephenson put an exclamation point on the victory with a breakaway dunk in the final seconds -- something James did not appreciate.
"(The Heat) were really mad at the end of the game because I got a cheap dunk," Stephenson told the team's website. "I know they're going to bring it to us."
The Heat (18-6) were a season-worst 4 of 21 from 3-point range in the last matchup but are among the best in the NBA at 38.6 percent. Mario Chalmers is 6 for 8 from behind the 3-point line in two wins since the loss at Indiana.
Miami also must do a better job in the second half, having been outscored 50-37 by the Pacers in the second half.
"The guys have owned that, addressed it," coach Erik Spoelstra said of the Heat's poor play after halftime.
Though the matchups with the Pacers are getting plenty of national attention, Miami knows there is still a lot of basketball left to play.
"It's a basketball game versus two good teams," said Dwyane Wade, who had 27 points Monday but was held to 17 in Indiana. "A lot of that goes on in the NBA. It's not our championship."
Last 5 Games
Team Stat Leaders
Paul George ranks seventh in the NBA in scoring, averaging 23.8 points per game, up 6.4 points per game from last season. George also ranks first in the league with 2.0 defensive win shares this season, according to Basketball-Reference.com. He led the NBA last season with 6.3 defensive win shares, which estimate the number of wins contributed by a player's defense.[+]
Paul George This Season
Paul George is averaging 14.7 PPG after averaging 25.1 PPG through the first 21 games. He's also been a way less efficient shooter, making 27% of his shots after making 47.8% of his shots before this rough stretch.[+]
Paul George This Season
The Heat trailed by 7 with 3:10 remaining, but ended on a 12-2 run as the Pacers missed all 5 attempts from the field down the stretch.[+]
Final 3:10 - Pacers at Heat
Dwyane Wade was 15-of-25 from the floor and scored a season high 32 points on Wednesday. He attacked the basket, going 12-of-18 in the paint for 24 points.[+]
It was his 202nd career 30-point game, fourth most among all players since he entered the league in 2003.
Dwyane Wade in the Paint, Wednesday
This is the first time this season LeBron James has been called for 3 fouls in the first half. It happened to him twice all of last season.
The Heat had far more success on their drives to the basket with Roy Hibbert off the floor on Wednesday (with the most notable stretch with Hibbert off the floor from 8:34 in the 3rd (picked up 5th foul) to 6:12 in 4th).[+]
With Hibbert battling foul trouble all night, the Pacers allowed a season-high 50 points in the paint.
Miami Heat Drives with Hibbert On/Off Court, Wednesday
LeBron James either scored or assisted on 15 of the Heat's 26 points in the 4th quarter Wednesday. However, it was his play on the defensive end that left a mark on the Pacers. James denied Paul George the ball on 2 of the final 3 possessions and stole a George Hill pass intended for George to help seal the game. George was 3-of-9 shooting with 2 turnovers when guarded by James. In their first meeting on December 10th, James held George to 0-of-4 shooting and 3 turnovers.[+]
Paul George Offense by Defender, Wednesday
LeBron James shot 56.5 percent from the field last season. Should he increase his field goal percentage again this season (currently shooting a career-high 59.8 percent), it would be the 7th straight season he's done so. Lenny Wilkens is the only player in NBA history that increased his field goal percentage in 7 consecutive seasons.[+]
LeBron James Field Goal Percentage Since 2006-07
ESPN Stats & Information