Pacers head to Miami to protect best record in East

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The Indiana Pacers come off their first home loss of the season and head to Miami to face the Heat.

The two best teams in the Eastern Conference meet Wednesday (7:00 p.m.) where the Pacers season ended last season. The Heat beat the Pacers in seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals and went on to win the NBA championship for a second straight year.

"That was last year," said Pacers forward Paul George after practice Tuesday. "We're on to a new season. What happened last year is something that we still remember. But this is a new year."

The new year has included a great start for the Pacers (20-4). But the Pacers no longer own the best record in the NBA. The Pacers lost that label with a Monday night loss to the Detroit Pistons, 101-96, the first defeat at Bankers Life Fieldhouse this season. The Pacers were beaten badly on the boards, 55-40, allowing 20 offensive rebounds to the Pistons.

"We didn't do a great job with our assignments on the defensive glass," said Pacers Head Coach Frank Vogel. "But we weren't terrible. Sometimes the ball bounces in the only place where you can't get it. It's just one of those nights."

The Pacers goals this season include putting up the best record in the NBA to secure home court advantage throughout the playoffs. They also want to avoid back-to-back losses.

"It's always like that, no matter if we played Miami or Washington or anybody,' said Pacers center Roy Hibbert. "We don't want to lose two in a row. So we're going to make a concerted effort to make sure we win this game."

Just a week ago, Lance Stephenson finished off a 90-84 win over Miami (18-6) at the Fieldhouse with a late emphatic dunk that the Heat thought was an unnecessary exclamation point.

"I don't see anything wrong with it," said Stephenson. "There were about 40 seconds left in the game. We're not going to sit down or have a turnover. They didn't get back on defense and I decided to dunk it. It's not my fault."

Heat superstar LeBron James missed practice Tuesday with a sprained ankle and is questionable to play against the Pacers. Dwyane Wade and Michael Beasley also missed practice for the Heat.

The Pacers schedule until Christmas:

Wednesday, Dec. 18 at Miami  7:00 p.m.
Friday, Dec. 20 vs. Houston  8:00 p.m.
Sunday, Dec. 22 vs. Boston 6:00 p.m.
Monday, Dec. 23 at Brooklyn  7:00 p.m.