Heat Check: Miami can’t hold early lead in loss to Pacers

It was a regular-season game amid playoff atmosphere.

The visiting Miami Heat failed to sustain a strong start and fell to the Indiana Pacers 90-84 on Tuesday night in the teams’ first meeting this season.

LeBron James and Dwyane Wade each had 17 points for Miami, which scored 30 points in the first quarter and led by as many as 13 in the second.

Then Indiana took control.

The Heat shot 42.9 percent (33 of 77) overall and only 4 of 21 from beyond the arc.

James had 14 rebounds … but also five turnovers. Indiana owned the boards overall 43-33.

Miami only committed 12 turnovers to Indiana’a 21, but that couldn’t overcome the Pacers’ improved defense during the final three quarters.

It’s still early, but it’s worth noting the Heat (16-6) fell three games behind the Pacers (19-3) for home-court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs.

The Heat and Pacers will play at Miami on Dec. 18, then do not face each other until March 26.

Center Roy Hibbert had 24 points and five rebounds to lead Indiana. Power forward David West added 17 points and nine rebounds. It’ll be interesting if Miami big man Greg Oden gets healthy enough to play some minutes late in the season and in the playoffs.

Indiana’s Paul George had 15 of his 17 points in the second half.

Miami’s bench again was without Michael Beasley, who missed this third straight game with a strained hamstring.

The Heat split their four-game road trip — losses at Chicago and Indiana, wins at Minnesota and Detroit.

The Pacers dominated the last two minutes of the second quarter and the entire third quarter to turn a 13-point deficit into a 68-64 advantage heading into the final period.

The Heat led by as many as 13 points en route to building a 47-40 halftime lead.

James had 10 points and heaped hold Indiana’s George to just 2 first-half points, two free throws.

Miami had just four first-half turnovers — compared with Indiana’s 13 — and outscored the Pacers 24-20 in the paint during the first half.

The Heat scored 30 points in the first quarter to go ahead by 11 points.

The turning point

Indiana scored seven straight points to go up 81-72 with 5:18 left. Ray Allen’s turnover led a C.J. Watson layup, and then Luis Scola’s basket followed James’ missed layup. After a timeout and scoreless possessions at both ends, George nailed a 3-pointer.

The difference maker

Pacers 7-foot-2 center Roy Hibbert. His physical presence was enough to help frustrate Miami’s defense at key times.

Stat of the game

Miami shot 4 of 21 from behind the 3-point line.

Must-see video

What’s next

The Heat have three days of before playing the Cleveland Cavaliers 7:30 p.m. Saturday at AmericanAirlines Arena.

Charlie McCarthy can be reached at mac1763@bellsouth.net or on Twitter @mccarthy_chas.