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Pacers still have work to do


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Apart from 19 regular-season games, Roy Hibbert understands the Indiana Pacers haven’t won anything yet.

Sure, Tuesday’s 90-84 victory against the visiting Miami Heat was a feel-good moment.

But postseason picture-wise, it didn’t determine anything other than, for a night, the Pacers were better than the two-time defending NBA champions.

Reading anything more into it, Hibbert insists, is nonsense.

“It’s just one game. We’re going to learn from it,” said Hibbert, who scored a game-high 24 points in a showdown viewed by some as foreshadowing who will win the Eastern Conference title. “It’s a learning experience.”

And at this point, that’s all it is.

Although the Pacers (19-3) have the NBA’s best record heading into tonight’s home game against Charlotte, they still have have 60 more games to play,

including three more against the Heat, the next one being Dec. 18 at Miami.

Moving forward, the Pacers’ objective is simply to continue doing what they’ve been doing: Win games and strengthen seeding position for a postseason that is still four months away.

Beating the Heat was just another step in a long regular-season march. The Pacers are cognizant of that.

So are the Heat, who have lost four straight at Bankers Life Fieldhouse — but who bounced Indiana from the playoffs each of the past two seasons on their way to NBA titles.

“We know they’re a good team,” Miami forward Chris Bosh said of the Pacers. “They know what their goals are, and we know what our goals are. We want to be to keep building to be a complete team for the springtime.”

But as early results indicate, the Pacers have a head start on Miami — and the entire league — in the race for becoming a complete team.

Arguably the NBA’s deepest team, Indiana is its best defensive team and is also one of its most balanced. All five starters average double-figure scoring, and three — Paul George, David West and Hibbert — are having All-Star-caliber seasons.

Moreover, primary backups Luis Scola, Orlando Johnson, C.J. Watson and Ian Mahinmi comprise one of the league’s best second units. Like the starting five, the reserves provide offensive punch and defensive muscle, a lethal combination the Pacers sorely lacked last season when they lost to the Heat in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

“This team has incredible will, heart, desire,” Indiana coach Frank Vogel said. “Whatever needs to happen for us, that’s what they do.”

Yet they’re not a finished product.

With 60 more to play, the Pacers still are refining.

“It’s still early in the season,” Hibbert said. “We have a lot more work to do.”

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