On a night filled with big NBA match-ups, the best and most interesting one is probably the Miami Heat trying to extend their NBA best winning streak to 18, while getting a little bit of revenge against one of their likeliest foes for the Eastern crown, the Indiana Pacers.
It’s really a lot about revenge, despite trying to downplay that fact, at least on the Heat’s side. The Pacers have some sort of edge to their basketball and their attitude, which worked well for them in the two wins over the Heat earlier this season, playing in Indiana. This time, in South Beach, where the Heat have lost only three times this season, they’re hoping that their defense isn’t going to be the only thing that shows up for the fight.
The Pacers have the best defense in the NBA, keeping teams at 89.5 points a night (second fewest in the league) while allowing them to shoot only 43.5% from the field. They don’t do this by forcing turnovers but more by uglyfiying the game as some have called it, and keeping the pace slow while using their physical advantages, mostly length and size, while protecting the basket.
For the Miami Heat, it’s been quite a fun ride before and after the All-Star break, winning 17 consecutive games. In the middle of all the craze about their constant winning was LeBron James posting some incredible numbers for a while – not just in scoring but also with some impressive shooting percentage for someone who isn’t a big man type of player, but as the winning streak continues, all the parts for the Heat are clicking – defense, Dwyane Wade and more and more players from the bench contributing their part, Ray Allen and Shane Battier especially.
The big key for the Heat will be handling the rebounding, which was a massive problem for them in the two previous meeting in Indiana, losing by 14 rebounds per loss and being held to only 41% from the field. The Heat lead the league at 49.5% and are 32-2 this season when hitting at least 48%. Getting into transition and not making this a half court kind of game is probably just as important.
Prediction – As troublesome as the Indiana Pacers were for Miami in the previous meetings, it’s impossible to look past the Heat at the moment, especially at home. Indiana are on a bad streak offensively, and it’s going to take more than just 48 minutes of great defense to deny Miami their 18th consecutive win.