For the second time in less than a month, the Miami Heat have to play at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse against the Indiana Pacers, hoping to keep their slight lead in the Eastern Conference and play much better their on their previous visit.
The Indiana Pacers, arguably, have the best defense in the NBA. Statistically? They’re second in points allowed (89.9) and first in field goal percentage allowed, keeping teams at 41.9% from the field.
The Miami Heat haven’t scored less than 84 points all season, except for one time. On January 8, their previous visit to Indiana, the Heat were held to only 77 points, as the Pacers won 87-77, as they couldn’t keep James and Wade in check (combining for 52 points), but pretty much cancelling out the rest of the team, which is the plan this time as well. Paul George, probably the Pacers’ MVP this season, led the team with 29 points and 11 rebounds, later making his first career All-Star game.
George is averaging 17.4 points per game this season (19 in January) along with 7.7 rebounds (9.1 in January) along with 3.8 assists and 1.8 steals per game. He seems like pretty much a lock for All-defensive first team this season, not to mention possibly defensive player of the year.
Despite a hot January, the Pacers didn’t do too well on their Western road trip, losing three consecutive games before heading back home for a win against the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday.
For the Miami Heat, it’s been about energy conservation, putting in the real effort where it was needed. Just like on their most recent road trip to the West, they saved their best for a strong finish against the Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Lakers. They’ve won five of their last six games, finally looking like they’ve gotten over their road problems, improving to 11-10, which is very important against a Pacers team with a 17-3 home record, tied for best in the Eastern conference.
One key for the Miami Heat will be their rebounding, usually a problem, especially against a team like the Pacers. Chris Bosh (7.4 boards per game) will need all the help he can get from James (leading the team with 8.3 per game), Wade (4.6 per game) and especially Udonis Haslem during his minutes in the front court.
Prediction – The Miami Heat don’t travel too well, but they did have two days since their easy win against the Nets, and they’ve shown they can adjust a second time around. I have a feeling they sense some sort of urgency in beating the Pacers, and will come through with a narrow win.