Miami turns back Pacers, evens Eastern semifinals

Minnesota plays Sacramento

? 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 points and Caron Butler added 21 to lead the Heat to a 100-88 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night, extending their home winning streak to 18 games. They also evened the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series at two games apiece.


Sure. The Heat looked overmatched in the first two games of the series. They were the team with little playoff experience. And they were the team that started the season 0-7 and were 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 were widely 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, they’ll have to win on the road — something they haven’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.

Game 5 is Saturday at Indiana, while Game 6 is Tuesday back in Miami. The Heat will have to win on the road to win the series.

Miami, which fell behind by nine points early, handled the best of the Pacers on Wednesday. The Heat also ended their streak of not scoring 100 points in the postseason at 38 games, an NBA record.

Jermaine O’Neal, who was quiet for the first two games of the series, scored 37 points for the Pacers, while Ron Artest added 28 after scoring just 14 in Game 3. The frontcourt duo looked to be playing 2-on-5 basketball at times.

Miami was much more balanced.

Dwyane Wade scored 20 points, 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 Pacers, who had no one else in double figures, lost consecutive games for just the fourth time this season. The first three all came on back-to-back nights that included travel.

“We really haven’t faced a big test yet, but now we have one,” Pacers forward Austin Croshere said.

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.

The Heat took control by outscoring the Pacers 23-13 in the third quarter with Odom doing most of the damage in the pivotal period.

He blew by Reggie Miller, who got no help from O’Neal, and dunked for a 72-67 lead with 2:51 to play in the quarter.

Odom then drove the baseline and dunked again to make it a seven-point game.

He also went 2-for-2 from three-point range, including one that gave the Heat an 83-73 lead midway through the fourth.

“He’s impossible to guard if he’s going to shoot the ball like that,” Heat coach Stan Van Gundy said. “There’s no way you can get out on him and not get beat off the dribble. Anybody who can shoot the ball, and shoot off the dribble and take it to the basket? Good luck.”

Alston hit three from beyond the arc. His biggest came off a miss by Miller and made it 88-77 with 6:32 to play.

Indiana made a late run, but it wasn’t enough.

Artest hit a three-pointer, O’Neal had a tip-in and Croshere added a rebound and a dunk to cut the lead to four points.

Then Wade took over, much like the rookie did when he scored 14 in the fourth quarter in Game 3. He hit a jumper and then made a driving layup to make it 92-84.

“When they get it going, it’s hard to stop the flood gates,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said.