MIAMI -- The morning after his team fell behind the Miami Heat 2-1 in the Eastern Conference finals, Indiana Pacers coach Frank Vogel told his players it was time for them as little brother to finally overcome their big brother.
"We have the little brother who spends his whole life getting beat up by the big brother, or getting beaten in sporting events, and all of the years of getting beat up builds them up to the point where they ultimately take on the big brother," Vogel said after Sunday's practice at AmericanAirlines Arena, explaining his analogy.
In this case, Lance Stephenson said, the Heat is the team "that took us out two years straight. We've just got to live up to the challenge, keep fighting and hopefully we can beat our big brothers."
If not for losing a 15-point second-quarter lead in the 99-87 Game 3 loss and a three-point lead late in Game 2, the Pacers could be in control of this series.
"It is frustrating because we've proved we can play well against this team and we always do," Paul George said. "But it's the same story. We turn the ball over and they get home-run plays from it."
George said the Heat plays its best the final three minutes of every quarter.
"It seems like they really play like their back is against the wall for that period. It gives them momentum going into the next quarter," George said. "That's where we've got to get better, because it seems that's where we're losing games."
Nonetheless, David West described the team's mood Sunday as "pretty upbeat." He added, "We don't get down on ourselves. We even this series up, everything that's happened before really doesn't mean anything."
Said Vogel: "We see the champs raising their game. Time for us to raise our game."
GEORGE AIMING FOR OFFENSIVE OUTBURST
George, who was 4-for-16 shooting in Game 2 and 5 for 13 in Game 3, has been turned into "more of a facilitator" than a scorer in this series due to the Heat's commitment to double-team him every time he touches the ball, Vogel said.
"He's getting other guys involved, which is good," Vogel said. "We've got to make sure we're being creative in ways he can be a scorer, too."
Vogel added that the Heat has made "a conscious effort to double-team every single type of screen we throw at them." George said that's forced him to get rid of the ball, and he'll try to attack more in Game 4 when isolated in one-on-one situations.
"I'm going to play within the game," George said. "I tried to be as aggressive for the time I was on the floor. I do feel like I can bring it to another level as far as being more aggressive. And I will be in Game 4.
"I was trying to get guys going and make the right passes, the right plays. But I will be aggressive as far as trying to put the ball in the hole myself."
West said George shouldn't become consumed with trying to be the Pacers' scoring equivalent of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
"We're not built the same way they're built," West said. "Obviously, we don't want Paul forcing and thinking he has got to do too much."
West: 'Wade too comfortable'
West talked Sunday about controlling the pace of Game 4 and not allowing the Heat to speed the Pacers up, but mostly he was focused on making Wade uncomfortable for the first time this series. The veteran guard is 31-for-50 shooting with 73 points in three games.
"He's just playing the game at way too high of a comfort level," West said. "We're not putting enough pressure on him, all the guys on the floor, to get him out of his comfort zone. He's really lining his shots up, taking his time, which we can't allow."
STEPHENSON WON'T BACK DOWN
Stephenson said he'll continue to be aggressive when going head-to-head against James.
"He's the best player in the league and I will refuse to back down to him," he vowed. "I'm just going to keep going after him. We've just got to do it as a unit and have each other's back."
STAYING STATUS QUO
Ray Allen took advantage in the fourth quarter of Game 3 with West guarding him, but the Pacers don't plan to go smaller in Game 4.
"The West-(Roy Hibbert) combination against any lineup is our best defensive combination," Vogel said. He added, "We've got to punish them at the other end (of the court) better than we did."
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