MIAMI (CBSMiami) — The Miami Heat returned to the practice court on Thursday, one day after they squandered a chance to eliminate the Indiana Pacers on their home floor and move on to the NBA Finals for the fourth consecutive year. The Heat won’t have to wait long for another opportunity to dispatch the Pacers though, as Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals is coming up on Friday night at the American Airlines Arena.
Much of the focus following Game 5 has been on the Pacers Lance Stephenson and his continued effort to get under the skin of LeBron James and the Heat. Stephenson was seen blowing in James’ ear at one point of game, trying to goad LeBron into some kind of negative reaction.
James continues to brush the efforts aside, keeping his focus where it belongs; on advancing to the NBA Finals.
“I’m just here to play basketball,” said James. “All the extracurricular activities I don’t really get into. I’m just trying to win. We need one more win to get to the Finals. That’s my only concern.”
Still, LeBron was able to find some humor in the exchange.
“I blew in my wife’s ear before,” James joked. “That was definitely a defensive tactic.”
Lance’s antics didn’t stop with blowing into James ear though. Stephenson was seen standing at the Heat’s bench during the second half, openly eavesdropping on a conversation between Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra and guard Norris Cole.
“That has nothing to do with the game,” Spoelstra said following the Heat’s practice on Thursday. “Some players do that. He’s not the only one.”
Stephenson continues to brush it all aside as though it’s no big deal but has yet to get a rise out of any Heat players during a game. Miami isn’t interested in putting any of their efforts towards anything but winning the series.
“I’m not going into the game worried about Lance or his antics,” said James on Thursday. “I’m just trying to win a game.”
If causing a distraction is what Stephenson is hoping to do then you could say that he is succeeding. Following Indiana’s 93-90 win in Game 5, it seems that Stephenson is all anybody is talking about instead of say, Paul George.
George had a second half for the ages on Wednesday night, scoring 31 of his 37 points after halftime. The Pacers all-star hit big shot after big shot during the final minutes of the game, repeatedly denying Miami any chance to re-take the lead.
“I just felt it. I felt in rhythm,” said George following Game 5. “I had to be aggressive. I tried to come out and be aggressive to start this game off, and I was getting looks. I got hot.”
The Heat are now focused on ending the series at home, where Miami has yet to lose a game during the 2014 Playoffs. Playing in front of their home fans is something that the Heat are not shy about saying they relish.
“It’s always extra special to have a chance to clinch at home,” Chris Bosh said following practice on Thursday. “We need Miami to be very loud tomorrow. We’re looking forward to it. We know the crowd is gonna be the loudest it’s been ever and we’re ready for it.”
“To have an opportunity to close out the series at home is ideal for anyone,” added Dwyane Wade.
Tipoff for Game 6 is set for Friday night at 8:30pm from the triple-A.