NBA Playoffs 2013 schedule: Can the Pacers find the winning formula on the road again?

USA TODAY Sports

LeBron James and the Miami Heat will be ready, but the Pacers know what they have to do to overcome the odds. Can they execute?

The Indiana Pacers will have a tough task on the road as they prepare to take on the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena on Thursday night with the series knotted up, 2-2.

More: Pacers fans should head over to Indy Cornrows | Heat fans should check out Hot Hot Hoops

In Game 4, the Pacers reclaimed their identity as a defensive-minded team. They held the defending champs to just 39 percent from the field and 35 percent from the three-point line.

More importantly, they keyed in on stopping LeBron James and had success in doing so. They held the reigning MVP to just 1-for-6 in the post, where he destroyed the Pacers in Game 3. He finished with 24 points on 8-of-18 from the field on Tuesday, and added six rebounds and five assists, but the way the Pacers defended him became the story of the evening.

But don't think for a second that it hurt the Heat's confidence going into an all-important Game 5.

"We don't need confidence to go into any game," James said following Game 4. "We're a confident bunch. We're excited to get the opportunity to go back to our home and play Game 5."

The Pacers, on the other hand, have to feel good about the way they were able to score against Miami's normally stout defense and should have plenty of confidence of their own. While the officiating drew a lot of criticism around media circles, they still put the game away in the fourth quarter with a 15-3 run.

On the road at Miami, they will likely have to stave off even more effort from the Heat, who are playing with desperation and the knowledge that no situation in a de facto three-game series is safe. But history shows that the fact that the home team will be running off adrenaline alone doesn't mean they will have a clear path to a series win.

Last year, the Boston Celtics defeated the Heat in Game 5, before James went into hero mode and willed his team to a Game 6 road win before they went on to close out the series in seven games. For that reason, head coach Erik Spoelstra has them focused and armed with the knowledge that they have to play desperately every game.

"Our guys have respect for the other team in that locker room," Spoelstra said. "We know nothing is earned easy in this series. We've got to work for it. Being home doesn't guarantee anything."

One thing that came too easily were the second-chance opportunities of the Pacers. They scored 19 second-chance points and out-rebounded the Heat, 49-30. Miami is dealing with a distinct disadvantage inside and will have to find out how to mitigate the effects of big man Roy Hibbert, who pounds the glass and bothers shots underneath.

Another budding star, Paul George, will have to pick things up offensively to lift the Pacers past the Heat. He'll have the impossible task of guarding James and being the catalyst on the other end of the floor. The good news for the Pacers is that they found a way to win when he struggled.

In South Beach, though, it figures to be a different story. As the George goes, so do the Pacers.

Quotes via the NBA's live press conference stream

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