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Heat, Pacers Trade Verbal Shots

The Miami Heat are early eight-point favorites against the Indiana Pacers for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Wednesday night, though the chatter between the two teams has heated up quickly. Indiana coach Frank Vogel fired the first shot in the salvo.

“This is not about getting back at Miami,” Vogel said. “If you’re in the final four, you’re competing for a championship. You’re competing for a championship. And they’re just the next team that’s in our way.”

After that, reporters ran with his comment, telling LeBron James in a press conference that Frank Vogel “kept saying the Heat were just another team.” That got under LeBron’s skin, and he quickly shot back at the Pacers’ coach.

“We’re not just another team,” James said. “I don’t understand what he’s saying. But we’re not just another team. That’s not true. He said we’re just another team in their way. We’re a great team. If we’re just another team, you really don’t prepare for just another team. You have to prepare for us.”

Whether any of this is real (or even matters) is beside the point. Dating back to the very physical playoff series last year, the Heat and the Pacers have a very contentious relationship. LeBron and company know that the M.O. to beat the Heat means one thing: pushing, shoving and trying to start fights. However, they’re tuned up for that kind of series; they just left a bruising one against the Chicago Bulls.

“We’re very confident,” James said. “We’ll be ready for them. We don’t need bulletin-board material. We’ve heard everything, we’ve seen everything. But I would say we’re not just another team, though.”

“We’re ready for whatever,” James said. “I believe it’s going to be like last series. They’re going to try to put me on the floor, maybe. Be physical with me, maybe. I don’t know. Every team kind of does the same thing. They kind of read what everyone else talks about [and say], ‘You have to beat up the Heat to beat them.’ We’ll see what happens.”

For his part, Frank Vogel denies that he said they were just another team, and upon reading his quotes, that looks to be true. However, the Heat don’t need any extra motivation from him; last year, he was fined $15,000 for saying that the Heat were one of the most egregious flopping teams in the league.

“Sorry, sports world, the words ‘just another team’ never came out of my mouth. Great respect for LBJ and the champs. Looking forward to [a] great series,” Vogel said upon learning of the media interest in his and LeBron’s “feud.”

While the Pacers hold a distinct size advantage over the Miami Heat, they could find themselves completely outgunned on the offensive end of the floor. Indiana’s defense is stellar, but Miami’s isn’t too far behind, and the Heat’s offense vastly outstrips the Pacers’. In a battle this evenly matched, it’s best to err on the side of caution and gamble on the team that just so happens to count the best player on earth as part of the roster. I love the Miami Heat to take the series in six.

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