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Tempers flare as Miami evens series with Indiana

Posted: Thursday, 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 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.

Improbable?

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.

 

Game 4, Second Round NBA Playoffs - Indiana Pacers vs the Miami Heat at the AmericanAirlines Arena. during the fourth quarter. Caron Butler elbow meets Reggie Millers mouth after Jamaal Tinsley fouled Eddie Jones late in the fourth.

Al Diaz/Herald Staff

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.

Kings 87, Timberwolves 81

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Every basket was a grind in the Sacramento Kings' series-tying victory. Perhaps that's why Chris Webber played so well. His last easy shot was some time last year.

Webber scored a playoff-high 28 points and Brad Miller added 20 to lead the Kings to an 87-81 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night in Game 4 of their second-round matchup.

For the first extended period since his return from serious knee surgery in February, Webber seemed downright comfortable. He made his first six shots, played strong defense on Kevin Garnett and added six points over the final 3:20, quashing the Timberwolves' hopes for a third straight last-minute victory.

Webber is somewhere near half-strength, playing extensive minutes on a painfully sore knee that could use much more recovery time than it gets in the playoffs. He was humorless and untalkative after the game -- but clearly satisfied by outplaying Garnett for the first time in the series.

''I made up my mind tonight I was going to play my game, do what they brought me here to do,'' Webber said. ''At least I was going to try to do it.''

Game 5 is Friday night in Minnesota, where the clubs split the first two games of the series. Game 6 is back in Sacramento on Sunday.

Mike Bibby had 15 points and a playoff-best 12 assists for the Kings, who increased their defensive intensity on cue. Webber again played a role, verbally exhorting his teammates in several timeout huddles.

Coach Rick Adelman altered his substitution pattern to give Webber more rest.

''He was getting open jumpers, and he was impressive,'' Adelman said.

The game was nearly the opposite of Minnesota's thrilling 114-113 overtime win two nights earlier. Both teams struggled to make easy shots and committed countless boneheaded turnovers, but Sacramento never trailed after the opening four minutes.

''Maybe they were a little relaxed,'' Miller said. ''Maybe they were just happy about getting home court back. We just have to do what we have to do to finish.''

Garnett had 19 points and 21 rebounds for the Timberwolves, who made 24 turnovers while losing in Sacramento for the first time in four games this season. Minnesota's Big Three -- Garnett, Latrell Sprewell and Sam Cassell -- combined to shoot 17-for-48.

The Timberwolves fled their locker room en masse before the media arrived.

''(The loss) had to do with us not taking care of the basketball,'' said Sprewell, the only Minnesota player in the interview room. ''Webb came out really aggressive tonight. He did exactly what he had to do to help this team win tonight. We knew they were going to put up a serious fight. They didn't want to go back to Minnesota down 3-1.''

Peja Stojakovic, the NBA's second-leading scorer in the regular season, had yet another terrible shooting game, missing eight of his first nine shots and rarely asserting himself in the Kings' offense. Stojakovic, Bibby and Doug Christie combined to shoot 7-for-31, getting just one basket in the fourth quarter.

But Webber carried the Kings. Though most of his points came from the outside to draw Garnett away from the paint, he played strong defense, grabbed eight rebounds and also got a dramatic dunk in the final minutes.

With the Kings' victory, all four of the second-round playoff series are tied at two games apiece -- but only this series featured any road wins.

Led by Webber's outside shooting and strong team defense, the Kings jumped to a 17-point lead in the first half. But nothing is easy in this series: Minnesota quickly made a 19-6 run that included 11 straight points, and the Wolves briefly tied it late in the third quarter.

Bibby made up for his 4-for-12 shooting with his best playmaking of the series despite Sprewell's defense. He also hit all six of his free throws, leading Sacramento's 22-of-25 performance from the line.

Cassell had 15 points and six assists for the Timberwolves, while Sprewell had 13 points. The rest of the roster managed just 34 points.

''We had a lot of unforced turnovers,'' coach Flip Saunders said. ''We just made bad decisions. We were doing things I hadn't seen in a long time.''

Notes: The drawstring on Garnett's shorts came loose during a play midway through the first quarter. He held up his shorts with one hand and played defense with the other, but Webber hit a jumper over him. ... Stojakovic was fouled hard on a long jumper late in the second quarter -- but the shot banked in anyway. When Stojakovic returned to the bench with a smirk on his face, Vlade Divac said: ''If it won't go the easy way, it's got to go the hard way.'' ... After the game, fans serenaded Bibby with an impromptu rendition of ''Happy Birthday.'' Bibby turns 26 Thursday.



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