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NBA

Heat holds its own at home, ties series

By Wire services
Published May 13, 2004

MIAMI - Lamar Odom asked for a show of hands from the room full of reporters and television cameras.

"How many of you thought this series would be 2-2?" he asked before scanning side to side and not seeing a single arm in the air. "I didn't think so."

Odom scored 22, and Caron Butler added 21 to lead the Heat to a 100-88 victory over the Pacers on Wednesday night, extending its home winning streak to 18 games. Miami also evened the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series at two games apiece.

Improbable?

Sure.

The Heat looked overmatched in the first two games of the series. It was the team with little playoff experience. And it was the team that started the season 0-7 and was 25-36 in March before staging a late surge and earning the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

The Pacers, meanwhile, were the team with the best record in the NBA. They also widely were considered the deepest team in the league.

Now Miami and Indiana are even.

But for the Heat get out of the second round of the playoffs, it will have to win on the road - something it hasn't done in the postseason.

"A lot of people think we can't win on the road, but a lot of people didn't think we could tie the series up either," Butler said.

Jermaine O'Neal, who was quiet for the first two games of the series, scored 37 for the Pacers, while Ron Artest added 28 after scoring just 14 in Game 3. The frontcourt duo looked to be playing two-on-five at times.

Miami was much more balanced.

Dwyane Wade scored 20, Eddie Jones and Rafer Alston each had 11, and Brian Grant added 10 before dislocating a finger on his right hand. He left the game with 4:38 to play.

"They played good; we played horrible," Artest said. "It's hard to pinpoint any one thing. I'm convinced now that they're one of the toughest teams in the NBA."

The game got physical near the end.

The Pacers were called for two flagrant fouls in the final minutes. Jamaal Tinsley was ejected after a double technical with Jones. He was tossed because it was his second technical foul of the game. Artest also got hit with a flagrant foul after knocking Wade hard to the ground.

PISTONS: Coach Larry Brown was fined $7,500 by the league for criticizing officials. "I expected that," he said. "I'm not saying anything I don't believe in my heart." Monday, Brown said referees tried to antagonize Pistons forward Rasheed Wallace, who was limited to 22 minutes in a Game 3 loss against the New Jersey Nets because of foul trouble. "It's just not right, it's not fair," Brown said. "I just think they disrespect the kid in general, that's the bottom line. They can fine me or whatever they want. I'm just telling you a fact."

SUNS: Coach Mike D'Antoni got a two-year contract extension. D'Antoni replaced the fired Frank Johnson on Dec. 10 after Phoenix started 8-13. The Suns went 21-40 the rest of the way, beating Utah on the road in their finale to avoid last place in the Western Conference and tying for the second-worst record in franchise history. D'Antoni who had a year left on his contract, is signed through 2006-07.

[Last modified May 13, 2004, 02:20:18]


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