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Turner, Pacers hold off Heat

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INDIANAPOLIS — Rarely does the ejection of an NBA starter help the player’s team win a game, but that was the case Wednesday night during one of the regular season’s most significant contests.

Indiana Pacers guard Lance Stephenson was whistled for a second technical foul with 5:01 remaining, prompting coach Frank Vogel to call on recently acquired guard Evan Turner, who came over in a deal with the Philadelphia 76ers.

Turner scored back-to-back field goals with 2:03 and 1:30 remaining, pushing the Pacers into an 81-80 lead, and Indiana hung on for an 84-83 victory in sold-out Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

“Some of my moves I have been doing since I was a little kid,” said Turner, who scored eight points in 21 minutes. “When I went in there, I was just trying to make sure I had an impact on the game. When Lance got thrown out, coach turned to me and said, ‘Welcome to the rivalry, now get in there.’

“Thankfully, in the past, I have been in a lot of special situations and pressure games. I have come up pretty big. They say that when the going gets tough, the tough get going. I can do that kind of stuff … take the pressure off other guys. Pacers-Heat is pretty crazy and a great game for the fans. There is so much excitement and energy.”

The teams performed at a playoff level in game in which Heat forward LeBron James produced 38 points, eight rebounds and five assists.

Indiana (52-20) now holds a three-game lead over the Heat (48-22) in the

race for the East’s top playoff seed.

“Evan Turner did a good job stepping in after Lance was ejected,” Vogel said. “He made two huge plays. We probably don’t win the game without Evan’s plays.”

The outcome hung in the balance until Miami forward Chris Bosh missed a potential game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer after Indiana guard George Hill missed two free throws with 2.3 seconds to play.

Indiana, 33-4 at home, led 84-80 after forward David West hit a 3-pointer with 50 seconds to play.

Bosh’s 3-pointer brought the Heat within 84-83 with 2.9 seconds left, and then Hill couldn’t hit either of his free throws.

Miami inbounded the ball at half-court to James, who passed to Bosh for a chance at victory. The shot was short, and Indiana survived.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said the final play for Bosh may not have been the best option.

“Unfortunately, that is what I diagramed,” Spoelstra said. “It might have been a little bit too gunslinger. I just wanted an open shot. With the game that LeBron had, obviously you would want to get him the ball.”

Vogel breathed a sigh of relief at the end.

“I was very proud of our effort to battle back a few different times when it seemed like Miami was about to take control of the game,” Vogel said. “LeBron was sensational, and we still were able to overcome them.”

For James, the loss was easy to break down.

“We had too many turnovers (seven) in the fourth quarter,” James said. “I am down now, because I feel like it is my fault on the one I was driving (and) going right and Paul George was able to knock the ball off my foot and they get a layup.”

George led the Pacers with 23 points, center Roy Hibbert added 21, Stephenson scored 15, and West finished with 13.

“Right now, we have smaller goals (than earning the No. 1 seed in the East),” George said. “There is a lot of stuff in between. We have to move the ball better, share the ball and play with even more energy. A lot of our losses recently have been because we have not finished plays when we have had opportunities to win. We had not gotten back to just playing good basketball.”

James’ floater in the lane to begin the fourth quarter gave the Heat a 70-63 lead, the Pacers countered with a 6-0 burst capped by a George dunk, cutting the deficit to 70-69 with 9:35 remaining.

After two more James free throws gave the Heat a 72-69 lead, the Pacers went on a 7-0 run to lead 76-72 on a Stephenson field goal at the 5:01 mark.

Stephenson, however, was whistled for a second technical foul seconds later, and Miami countered with an 8-0 burst, which included a James 3-pointer.

With 3:23 to play, the Heat led 80-76.

Indiana got 13 first-quarter points from Hibbert to lead 23-17 after 12 minutes, but James countered with a 12-point second quarter to help Miami seize a 45-44 advantage at halftime.

NOTES: Entering Wednesday’s game, Miami and Indiana each had six victories in the past 12 meetings featuring the best in the East, with the Heat averaging 93.3 points and the Pacers averaging 92 points. … Miami G Dwyane Wade (strained left Achilles) was in the starting lineup, which was expected. He scored 15 points. … Pacers coach Frank Vogel said that C Andrew Bynum, who is battling continued soreness and swelling in his right knee, is expected to play again this season but not in the immediate future … The starting time for the Pacers’ April 13 home game against F Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder was changed to 1 p.m. ET from 6 p.m. The game will be televised by ABC.