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Juwan Howard has verbal altercation with Lance Stephenson before Game 4

INDIANAPOLIS – Nearly 90 minutes before tipoff of Game 4 of an acrimonious Eastern Conference playoff series, Indiana Pacers guard Lance Stephenson again appeared to be a source of irritation to the Miami Heat.

Miami Heat forward Juwan Howard and Stephenson exchanged sharp words within inches of each other’s faces on the court. Stephenson, who flashed a choke sign at Heat star LeBron James in the Pacers' Game 3 victory, had been shooting with the Pacers on one end of the floor when Howard walked past on the way to Miami's locker room.

It was unclear which player had said something to start the jawing, but Howard was soon warning Stephenson to keep his mouth shut, as Pacers assistant coach Brian Shaw stepped between the players and nudged Howard away from the court. There didn’t appear to be any possibility that the altercation would evolve into violence, but Howard clearly had no use for Stephenson, nor his attitude.

[Related: Dwyane Wade clashes with Miami Heat coach during awful Game 3

Stephenson responded with a half-smile, and kept taking his warm-up jumper shots as Howard was escorted away from the floor.

Howard, 39, is one of the league’s most respected veterans and completing his 18th season in the NBA. Stephenson, 21, is a talented young player mostly known so far for his immaturity in the NBA. Stephenson issued an apology after Game 3 for making the choking sign from the Pacers bench that TV cameras broadcast on air.

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