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Pacers on verge of clinching top seed in East with win over Thunder

April 13, 2014|By Ira Winderman
  • Pacers guard Lance Stephenson celebrates after scoring late in the game against the Thunder on Sunday afternoon in Indianapolis.
Pacers guard Lance Stephenson celebrates after scoring late in the game… (Michael Conroy / Associated…)

WASHINGTON -- What became apparent with Saturday night's Miami Heat loss to the Atlanta Hawks came into sharper focus Sunday: The Heat likely will enter the NBA playoffs as the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference.

With Sunday's 102-97 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the Indiana Pacers reduced their magic number to clinch the No. 1 seed in the East to one: either a win in their Wednesday season finale on the road against the Orlando Magic or a Heat loss Monday at the Verizon Center against the Washington Wizards or Wednesday at AmericanAirlines Arena against the Philadelphia 76ers.

David West scored 21 points and Lance Stephenson had his NBA-leading fifth triple-double (17 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists) of the season in leading Indiana past Oklahoma City. Paul George finished with 20 points and 12 rebounds.

Kevin Durant finished with 38 points for Oklahoma City (58-22) on a day it could have locked up the second seed in the West.

Sunday's victory improved the Pacers' record to 55-26. The Heat, who were idle Sunday, are 54-26. While the Heat and Pacers finished their season series tied, 2-2, the Pacers hold the tiebreaker by virtue of a superior Eastern Conference record, 37-14 to 34-16.

With Heat forward LeBron James expressing a desire for time off this week, and with Coach Erik Spoelstra saying he would decide his playing rotation Monday, it could be Heat Lite the next two games.

“We'll see how our bodies feel,” Spoelstra said, giving his team Sunday off. “As usual with our camp, we'll be day to day.”

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