The Miami Heat had no big men to help out Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic, and so their fall outside the playoff picture continues with a 112-89 loss to the Indiana Pacers, rejuvenated by the return of Paul George, which might actually be enough to push them into the postseason.
George scored 13 points in 15 minutes, his first basket coming with 3:50 left in the first quarter, making his way through three defenders and pulling up for the midrange jumper. George hit 5-of-12 from the field and didn’t look shy or hesitant. His movement is a bit favoring his leg, but it seems like his return to the basketball court in order to save the season for the Pacers isn’t too early or premature.
With the win, the Pacers are now tied with the Heat at 34-43. Indiana won two games in a row, both against direct rivals for the final playoff spots. It leaves both the Heat and Pacers one game behind the 35-42 Boston Celtics and 1.5 games behind the 35-41 Brooklyn Nets. The Heat have lost four in a row and five of their last six, but maybe a four-game home stand can help save this season’s playoff bid.
Besides George there were plenty of other “heroes” for the Pacers, led by Luis Scola with 23 points in only 19 minutes. Scola had no one to bother him under the basket, as both Hassan Whiteside and Chris Andersen didn’t play due to minor injuries. The Heat were forced to once again play with Udonis Haslem as their only big man in the lineup and Luol Deng as a power forward. It allowed the Pacers to grab 20 offensive rebounds.
Solomon Hill scored 19 points and C.J. Miles finished with 17 points, most of them coming from his 5-of-10 shooting day from beyond the arc. It was the most points the Pacers have scored since March 10 win over the Orlando Magic (118-86). Overall they shot 14-of-30 from beyond the arc, while the Heat, unable to really generate and inside-outside game going, hit only 10% of their 3-point attempts.
Dwyane Wade led the Heat with 27 points, but his impressive effort since the All-Star break to steer the ship might fall short of accomplishing it’s goal due to the Heat simply not having a good enough team left to fight with him. They’ve now lost three of their last four games by 14 points or more, and Wade putting on his best season since possibly the first James’ year in Miami is on the verge of going to waste.
The Heat still have five games left to play: Charlotte, Chicago, Toronto and Orlando (all at home) and finish at Philadelphia, a team they’ve already lost to this season. The Pacers play the Knicks and Detroit on the road before two home games against the Thunder and the Wizards, finishing at Memphis. Sounds like a more difficult job, but they’re currently playing better basketball than the crumbling Heat.