They’ll typically sidestep the questions, playing the politically correct charade even though a sly smile belies their true feelings.

Our evidence comes in the raw moments of competition. Perhaps it’s two players staring down one another after a forceful foul, or two more trading barbs as they run down the court. The extracurriculars are as unscripted as the game itself.

This much we know, though, through two games of these Eastern Conference finals: despite whatever they say, these two teams really don’t like each other.

“It’s two winning basketball teams playing physical and not trying to give up any ground,” Pacers point guard George Hill said after his team’s 97-94 Game 2 win.

“That’s the way we’ve played all year. We’re not backing down.”

Consider it’s a series just eight quarters old but one where four technical fouls have been called, including one on an assistant coach. And this year is no aberration: players on the two teams have combined for ten techs in eight playoff games against each other over the past two seasons.

They are battles high on drama and high on chippiness, filled with flying elbows and flying bodies.

Roy Hibbert has loved every minute of it.

“To tell you the truth, I embrace that,” Hibbert said after he backed up all of his between-game chatter with 29 points and 10 rebounds. “Seeing us getting techs and still be up and still fighting. That energizes me. I relish that stuff.”

The Heat say it comes with the territory. They are the champs, hardened by years of playoff experience. They’ve come to expect this.

“You’re going to leave the game feeling like you got hit by a Mack truck,” the Heat’s Dwyane Wade said. “You have two teams trying to move on to the Finals. It’s not going to feel like a preseason game, not going to feel like a regular season game, it’s going to feel like an Eastern Conference finals, physical game.”

Friday night’s did early and often. The game within the game commenced in the second quarter, when LeBron James took exception to a foul committed by Pacers reserve Sam Young as James drove to the paint. After the whistle blew, James stood motionless, staring Young down.