Howard confronts Lance Stephenson

INDIANAPOLIS -- Miami Heat veteran Juwan Howard and Indiana Pacers guard Lance Stephenson had to be separated following an on-court confrontation before the teams played Game 4 of their playoff series Sunday.

Bad blood between the two, 18 years apart in age, has been building for months. It dates to a scuffle the two had during a game in Indianapolis on March 26 when Howard was ejected for getting into Stephenson's face after several physical incidents during play.

This week, Stephenson drew the Heat's attention when he made a choke sign in the direction of LeBron James after a missed free throw in Game 3. Later in the game, Howard appeared to set a hard screen on Stephenson in the final minute.

Stephenson apologized to the Heat on Saturday for the incident. When asked, James dismissed Stephenson's actions.

On Sunday, Howard walked to the Pacers' side of the court during pregame warm-ups and spoke to Stephenson. The two exchanged words for several moments and stood chest to chest before some of Stephenson's teammates broke up the encounter, which lasted less than a minute.

The Indianapolis Star reported that, on Saturday, Howard came to the Pacers' locker room area when the Heat arrived at Bankers Life Fieldhouse for practice and attempted to find Stephenson. He never got to the locker room or talked to Stephenson but did talk with veteran Pacers guard Dahntay Jones, the newspaper reported.

According to team sources, Stephenson has been getting on Heat players' nerves with his commentary from the bench during the series. Neither Howard nor Stephenson have played other than in the closing seconds of a lopsided Pacers win in Game 3.