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Heat-Pacers Preview

It's no secret the Indiana Pacers missed Paul George during a disappointing campaign last season, and he made a point to come back better than ever to help them become contenders again in the Eastern Conference.

Although he's putting up the best numbers of his career, even George's impressive efforts haven't been enough lately.

The Pacers look to avoid a fourth consecutive defeat by winning a ninth straight regular-season home meeting with the Miami Heat on Friday night.

George missed all but the final six games of 2014-15 after suffering a freak leg injury in a USA Basketball exhibition, but he's gotten back to being his old self and the No. 1 offensive option for the Pacers (12-8).

He's averaging 27.9 points, 8.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists, all per-game numbers that project to be career highs. George has six 30-point games over his last seven, a stretch during which he's averaging 33.6.

Indiana, though, has dropped the last three, including Saturday when George scored a career-high 48 points in a 122-119 overtime loss to Utah and 33 in a 131-123 defeat to Golden State on Tuesday.

The Pacers rallied to trim a 32-point deficit to six in the final minute but couldn't get any closer. They tied a franchise worst by allowing 44 points in the first quarter and allowed their most total points since a 132-89 loss to New York on Jan. 3, 2010.

Indiana gave up an average of 95.3 points over its first 17 but has allowed 125.3 per game during its losing streak.

The Pacers were much better defensively in the first meeting with Miami (12-8) on Nov. 6, holding Dwyane Wade to nine points on 4-of-15 shooting in a 90-87 home victory.

George finished with 36 points and 12 rebounds for the Pacers, who haven't lost in the regular season to Miami at Bankers Life Fieldhouse since Feb. 14, 2012.

"Every team is different from the first time seeing them to now," George said. "We're a different team now (as well). Everybody gets more locked in, more dialed in to what they're doing. It's going to be a different ballgame. We can't come out here and expect that we're going to beat them easily because we beat them already. It's going to be an even tougher game for us."

The Heat also appear much improved after going 37-45 and missing the playoffs in its first season in five years without LeBron James while also dealing with Chris Bosh missing most of that season with a blood clot in his lungs.

Bosh struggled Wednesday, though, scoring a season-low seven points in a 99-81 loss to Charlotte. Miami suffered its second straight defeat while shooting just 38.7 percent and tying its season low for total points.

Tyler Johnson scored a career-high 20 off the bench, and Wade and Gerald Green added 11 apiece. Luol Deng scored five points off the bench in his first action since missing six games with a left hamstring strain.

Wade felt the Heat looked out of sorts.

''Everybody means well,'' Wade said. ''On the road, you can't come out and spar with them offensively. You've got to get to your game right away. Not that it's going to guarantee a win, but it'll settle us and let us get better shots.''

Bosh had 21 points and 11 rebounds in the first meeting for the Heat, who are 2-4 on the road.

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