MIAMI — The Miami Heat had caught some breaks early this season, beating the Wizards when Washington was missing four key players and defeating the Minnesota Timberwolves right after standout point guard Ricky Rubio got hurt.
Then the Indiana Pacers, missing six players, hit town for what was supposed to be another easy win.
But it didn’t happen.
The Pacers, despite shooting just 37.5 percent, played tough defense and dominated the boards, beating the Heat 81-75 on Wednesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Indiana (3-6) held Miami (5-3) to 43-percent shooting and won the rebounding battle, 53-28.
“That’s the Pacers-Heat the past few years — their speed and ability to force turnovers against our size,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “That’s why it’s been pretty even over the past few years, but tonight our rebounding prevailed.”
Heat-Pacers was one of the NBA’s hottest rivalries the past three years — but not anymore.
The Heat eliminated the Pacers in the playoffs in each of those seasons, but that was before Miami star LeBron James bolted to the Cleveland Cavaliers and Indiana star Paul George was lost to a serious leg injury.
Indiana, though, still has 7-foot-2 center Roy Hibbert, and he was dominant on Wednesday with 16 points, 15 rebounds and three blocks, helping the Pacers win their first road game this season (1-3).
HIbbert, who endured a six-game losing streak before helping Indiana win its past two, said he wasn’t worried about whether there was still a rivalry with the Heat.
“We need to win games,” Hibbert said. “I don’t care about rivalries. I’m thinking about not having another losing streak.”
Forward Chris Copeland, who was Indiana’s leading scorer with 17 points, hit a driving layup with 42 seconds left to break a 72-72 tie.
Miami guard Mario Chalmers was then charged with an offensive foul, and Indiana took control from there, winning its second game in a row.
Indiana got 15 points from point guard Donald Sloan, who drew the foul on Chambers. Indiana also got nine points and 10 rebounds from power forward Solomon Hill.
The Heat, which blew a nine-point first-half lead, had its modest two-game win streak snapped.
“We have to get more block-outs and be a gang-rebound team,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, whose top rebounder was forward Luol Deng, with seven. “It can’t be just one individual.”
Miami was led by guard Dwyane Wade (20 points) and forward Shawne Williams (15 points). Power forward Chris Bosh, who came in averaging 23.6 points and 10.3 rebounds, was held to nine points and two rebounds, his season lows in both categories.
“Nothing was going my way tonight,” Bosh said. “Hibbert is a good defender.
“Our offense is predicated on ball movement, and they really flattened us out.”
Besides the rebounding issues and Bosh’s off night, the Heat was plagued by bad foul shooting, making just eight of 18 for 44 percent.
Miami led 26-24 after one quarter, shooting 52 percent from the floor and committing just one turnover. Wade had 11 points in the first quarter, making up for Bosh, who was scoreless in four minutes, hampered by two quick foul calls.
Indiana cut that slight Heat lead in half, giving Miami a 42-41 advantage going into the break.
The Pacers surged ahead 63-58 after three quarters. Hibbert led the way with eight points and seven rebounds in the quarter.
Through three quarters, the Pacers had a 41-19 advantage in rebounds, including 13-4 on the offensive glass.
“I can’t say we should have won this one because we didn’t play very well,” Bosh said. “We missed free throws, and we didn’t move the ball. We can’t do that and then expect to dig ourselves out of a hole. We’re not that good.”
NOTES: Besides G Paul George, the other injured Pacers are PG George Hill (bruised left knee), PG C.J. Watson (bruised right foot), SG Rodney Stuckey (bruised left foot), F C.J. Miles (migraines), PF David West (sprained right ankle). … Heat C Chris “Birdman” Andersen, who hadn’t played since the opener because of bruised ribs, returned to the rotation midway through Wednesday’s first quarter. … Heat C Justin Hamilton (left hip) and F Danny Granger (hamstring) are still out. … The scoring average of Heat SG Dwyane Wade has decreased in each of the past five years, from 30.2 in 2008-09 to 19.0 last season. So far this season, he is averaging 19.7 points. … Up next, Indiana returns home to play the Denver Nuggets on Friday. … Miami plays Friday at the Atlanta Hawks.
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