On their way to an NBA title last season, the Miami Heat avoided an early scare and eliminated the Indiana Pacers in the second round.
In their first meeting since that series, the Heat will try to snap the Pacers’ longest home winning streak in nearly three years Tuesday night.
Miami trailed Indiana 2-1 in an Eastern Conference semifinal series in 2012 before outscoring the Pacers by an average of 17.3 points while reeling off three wins in a row – two in Indianapolis.
Now, the Heat (23-9) are looking to end Indiana’s seven-game home winning streak, the club’s longest since an eight-game run Feb. 27-March 30, 2010.
Miami is 9-35 in Indianapolis during the regular season and just 7-6 on the road this season heading into its second six-game road trip of 2012-13. The team went 4-2 during the previous one Nov. 9-17.
“We’re going to see where we’re at,” said Chris Bosh, who missed all but Game 1 of the playoff series versus Indiana due to an abdominal strain. “Trips are always a test.”
The Heat are coming off Sunday’s 99-71 win over lowly Washington, during which they scored the game’s final 21 points and allowed their lowest total of the season.
They’re still seeking improvement defensively after allowing 105.6 points per game on 46.5 percent shooting while losing three of their previous five. Opponents are averaging 100.8 points and shooting 39.9 percent from 3-point range in Miami’s road games.
“We understand that if we want to win, ultimately we have to defend,” said LeBron James, who has 32.3 points per game over the past three away contests.
James averaged 30.0 points and 10.8 rebounds against the Pacers in the playoffs, while Dwyane Wade stepped up with 33.0 on 61.5 percent shooting over the last three games. Wade scored 41 with 10 rebounds in a 105-93 road win in Game 6.
The Heat scored 75 points in each of their losses in Games 2 and 3.
The Pacers (20-14) remain one of the better defensive teams in the league, yielding an average of 89.8 points on NBA-low 41.4 percent shooting. They’ve been even better during their home winning streak, allowing 83.6 points per contest and 39.7 percent from the floor.
“Coach (Frank Vogel) is holding us accountable to protect our home court,” guard George Hill said. “Like he says, this is supposed to be sacred ground, something we have to cherish when other people come into this arena. It takes all of us, and that’s what we’re buying into.”
The Pacers signed Vogel – 82-56 in three seasons – to a contract extension Monday, although the length and terms weren’t announced.
That was two days after Indiana extended its home win streak with a 95-80 victory over Milwaukee. Roy Hibbert had 20 points and 15 rebounds – 11 on the offensive glass to come within one of the franchise record.
“I just wanted to carve out some space and try to get as many offensive rebounds as possible,” said Hibbert, who averaged 12.3 points and 11.5 boards against the Heat in the postseason. “Early in the season, I’d catch the rebound and I’d just go back up real soft.”
Hill is trying to shake off the effects of a groin injury that sidelined him for three games before he scored 14 points on 7-of-16 shooting against the Bucks.
“It wasn’t 100 percent, but I’ll take it for what it is and keep trying to get better,” Hill said.