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“They were disrespectful and offensive and not a reflection of my personal views,” Hibbert was quoted as saying in the statement released by the team. “I used a slang term that is not appropriate in any setting, private or public, and the language I used definitely has no place in a public forum, especially over live television.”

NBA Commissioner David Stern said the fine was necessary “to reinforce that such offensive comments will not be tolerated.”

Vogel said he spoke with Hibbert about the matter Sunday, saying “he obviously made a great mistake.”

On the court, though, Hibbert has had nothing to apologize for, dominating play inside while the Heat are struggling in countless ways.

Dwyane Wade’s sore right knee _ which has been an issue for about three months now _ is not getting better anytime soon, and he’s stopped even wanting to discuss how it’s affecting his game. Chris Bosh said he needed to get back in the gym Sunday and regain some lost rhythm. Wade is averaging 12 points on 32 percent shooting in his last three games, Bosh just 6.3 points on 24 percent shooting in that same span.

“Just got to come out and play to win,” Wade said. “It’s one game for both teams.”

Said James, when asked about the other two parts of Miami’s Big Three: “I mean, we can state the obvious. They’re both struggling.”

They’re hardly the only Heat players who picked the wrong time of year to go into a slide. Ray Allen is shooting 13 for 46 in this series, Shane Battier is at 2 for 16, and they’re a combined 9 for 39 from 3-point range against the Pacers.

Mike Miller gave the Heat a big second-half boost as they tried to rally from a big deficit in Game 6, and Heat coach Erik Spoelstra suggested that Miller could get some time in the series finale.

“Everything is on the table,” Spoelstra said.

One roster tweak the Heat will make on Monday: Chris Andersen’s one-game suspension for pushing Indiana’s Tyler Hansbrough is now complete, and the Heat backup big man _ who is 15 for 15 from the field in the series _ will be available for Game 7.

So even on the cusp of elimination Sunday, Spoelstra was decidedly upbeat.

He lauded the Pacers and insisted that this series going the distance is a testament to the level of competition. He said the Heat didn’t mind being pushed to the limit, and that his team would look at being in a Game 7 as “a treasure.”

“You feel alive when you’re tested, when there’s adversity, when you have to reveal your character,” Spoelstra said. “Then when you do with that collectively, that is a special moment and a special feeling. There’s nothing like it in pro sports … arguably two of the top words in pro sports is `Game 7.’”

The Heat had to win a Game 7 in the East finals at home last season, so they understand the pressure that will be there on Monday night. But in his postgame remarks Saturday, James was smiling, laughing on occasion, showing no signs of strain even though a season of the highest expectations is on the brink of ending earlier than anyone would find acceptable.

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