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Heat & Pacers Set The Bar For Eastern Conference

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – If the last two games between the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers are a sign of what's coming if the two teams meet in the Eastern Conference Finals; it's going to be one fun, but physical series.

Indiana and Miami have split two games this season, with the Heat winning Wednesday night, 97-94 with LeBron James on a sprained ankle. Miami did it by erasing a 15-point deficit and getting a great game from Dwyane Wade.

But now, the two teams will have to wait until March 26 to play each other again. Both teams have 57 games left this year and are separated by just one game in the Eastern Conference standings. And both Miami and Indiana want the number one seed and home court advantage through the Finals.

"I'm actually kind of sad we don't play them for three months," James said. "This is a really, really good thing, going against these guys. They bring out the best in us. We try to bring out the best in them. It was fun. It was fun these last eight days while it lasted, and now we can get on with the rest of our season."

Fans loved the games too as Wednesday night's game was the top-rated game on ESPN this season.

As December wanes, Miami and Indiana are running away from their competition in the Eastern Conference. Both teams are well ahead of any other contenders and appear to be head-and-shoulders above any other foe in the East.

"There is a large gap in the standings, but there are some teams that had injuries and some teams that are up-and-coming that will make second-half pushes come playoff time," Indiana head coach Frank Vogel said.

The key for both Miami and Indiana is not to peak too soon in the second-half of the season. The Heat showed Indiana they are still the team to beat Wednesday night. Plus, Miami may have another weapon to throw at the Pacers when the playoffs roll around.

If Heat center Greg Oden can get on and stay on the court in the second half of the season; it gives Miami the advantage over every team in the league.

Combining Oden's defense and rebounding with the transition and all-around games of LeBron, Wade, Chris Bosh, and Ray Allen would almost make the Heat unstoppable.

But it's still a long time until then and still a big IF whether or not Oden can stay healthy once he gets on the court.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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