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Vogel sounded concerned, but optimistic.

“Very much hoping he’ll be available tomorrow,” Vogel said. “He’s a gamer. I’m thinking he’ll play. But his ankle’s pretty bad, so we’ll see.”

Vogel called Miami floppers before the series started, and it’s been gritty throughout. The teams combined to shoot 66 free throws in Game 1, and there have been a combined nine technicals and flagrants called in the four games since. Tension also increased after cameras caught Stephenson making a choke sign during Indiana’s Game 3 victory, and Juwan Howard confronting him about his antics before Game 4.

“It’s been a physical series, started by them,” Wade said.

And James said he doesn’t expect things to cool down when the Pacers try to save their season in Game 6.

“I always feel like in a playoff series or certain regular-season games that a team may be trying to go for me,” James said. “It’s happened. I’m not saying guys are playing dirty, but certain guys say, `You know, if you hard-foul LeBron, get him off the ball, he’ll stop being aggressive and things like that.’ I know when it’s happening and I see when it’s about to happen. I’m always in protect mode. I’ve been hard-fouled a lot.”

James said one of those situations happened in Game 5. Indiana forward David West _ who left Tuesday’s game with what the team called a sprained knee, though he insisted Wednesday he was not hurt _ took exception to a play where he was knocked backward, saying a Heat player fell into his knee. On that play, replays showed West was boxed out by Battier, but it appeared no one hit West in the knee area.

Not long afterward, West fouled James, who said he saw it coming.

“He was the one on the floor and I was the one still standing,” James said. “So I started laughing at that. But he tried to get me.”

West said on Wednesday that if Indiana wants to force a Game 7 in Miami, it simply needs to play better on both ends than it did on Tuesday night.

“You’ve just got to stand your ground. I think that’s the biggest thing,” West said. “It was unfortunate, the play at the end of the game on Lance. But we’ve just got to deal with it, man up, handle it _ like I said, the best way you can, within the rules.”


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