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Heat Look To Take Commanding Lead In Eastern Conference Finals

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LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat drives to the basket against Lance Stephenson #1 of the Indiana Pacers during Game Three of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Arena on May 24, 2014 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat drives to the basket against Lance Stephenson #1 of the Indiana Pacers during Game Three of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Arena on May 24, 2014 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Miami Heat will look to take a major step towards returning to the NBA Finals for the fourth consecutive year on Monday night when they host the Indiana Pacers in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals. Miami leads the best-of-seven series 2-1 following their exciting come from behind win in Game 3 on Saturday night at the American Airlines Arena.

Despite getting off to a poor start in Game 3, trailing by as many as 15 points in the first half, the Heat showed their resilience by completely turning the game around behind great games by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen.

The Pacers have played well throughout the series, leading for nearly 70-percent of the time during the first three games.  Miami has gotten the last laugh though, playing their best at the times when it matters the most.

“The last two games it’s been very competitive, very close,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.  “Our better basketball has been at the end.  What we’re looking for is more consistency. Ultimately you just have to find a way. ”

Getting off to a good start has not been easy for the Heat during this series as they have trailed by at least eight points during the first quarter of every game so far.  Miami is averaging just 19 points on 45-percent shooting during the first quarters of Games 1 through 3.  Compare that to their fourth quarters in which they average 23 points while shooting 53-percent from the field.

“This team has proven to be resilient,” said Ray Allen, who was a hero on Saturday shooting 4 for 4 from three-point range during the fourth quarter of Game 3. “In bad situations we pick it back up.”

Miami has not lost at home during the 2014 NBA Playoffs.  They have won nine consecutive playoff games at the American Airlines Arena dating back to last season, one win shy of tying the franchise’s record of 10 straight home playoff victories.

Even with that in mind, the Heat knows that they haven’t played up to their full potential yet.  Falling behind early and having to claw their way back into games is not the way you want to succeed during the playoffs.  The good thing is that when Miami is playing the way they want to, the stops come easier on defense which always leads to a much smoother, more fluid offense.

“We haven’t played our best game.  (The Pacers) probably feel the same way,” LeBron James said.  “We haven’t started how we want to, how we need to.  We think our best basketball is yet to come.”

James has scored at least 20 points in 16 straight playoff games, the longest active streak in the NBA.  He finished with 26 points, five rebounds, seven assists and four steals in Game 3 and has posted similar numbers throughout the playoffs.  The assist totals are key though, as a big part of the Heat’s success is their ability to get everyone involved in the offensive game.

A player that has yet to get into an offensive groove during this series is Chris Bosh, who always seems to have a hard time when playing the Pacers.  Bosh has yet to have a double-figure scoring game in this series, averaging nine points and four rebounds on just 36-percent shooting.  The open looks have been there for Bosh so you have to figure it’s only a matter of time before he starts hitting those shots.

“I know everybody is used to playing video games where everybody gets 30 (points) and then you still win the game.  That’s unrealistic,” said Bosh.  “Especially now, it’s all about getting a win.  That’s what it’s all about.  That’s all I ever cared about.  If I score 20 (points) and we take (a loss), is that better?  I want to win the game”

This is the fourth year in a row that Miami has led the Eastern Conference finals 2-1.  They advanced to the NBA Finals in each of the past three years.

Tipoff from the triple-A is set for 8:30pm.

 

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