Two consecutive postseason matchups – one of them a
back-and-forth, seven-game series – are enough to establish a solid
After they pushed last season’s conference finals to a decisive
Game 7, the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat have again risen above
the pack in the East.
The two teams meet for the first time since that series Tuesday
night in Indianapolis in a possible preview of what’s to come
during the playoffs.
“They’re a great team right now, the way they’re playing,” Heat
forward LeBron James said of the Pacers. “We’re trying to get
healthy, we’re trying to get to our full potential. We’ll see what
we can do.”
Miami and Indiana alternated victories throughout the East
finals in the spring, with the Heat prevailing 99-76 at home in the
finale to reach their third straight NBA finals. Miami beat Indiana
4-2 in the conference semifinals the year before.
The Pacers (18-3) have raced to the league’s best record this
season and should be even more motivated for this matchup coming
off their worst performance of 2013-14 in a 118-94 loss at Oklahoma
City on Sunday.
Indiana, closing out a tough five-game road trip, allowed the
Thunder to shoot 61.0 percent from the field. It was by far the
highest this season given up by the Pacers, who came in having
allowed only two opponents to crack 50 percent.
It was also the most points they’d allowed since giving up the
same number in a loss to the Heat on Jan. 4, 2012.
Indiana still finished its trip at 3-2, including victories over
West powers San Antonio and the Los Angeles Clippers.
“We did well this trip,” forward Paul George said. “A lot of
stuff to take away and things we can nit-pick and take from the
teams that we lost to and the teams we played this trip. I think we
played well this trip.”
The Pacers should be glad to be returning home, where they are
9-0 and surrendering just 81.8 points per game – even better than
their league-leading 89.5 allowed overall.
All of those victories, however, have come against teams with
.500 records or worse, so Miami (16-5) undoubtedly poses the
biggest challenge for the Pacers at home thus far.
The Heat lead the conference with 103.5 points per game, while
James is shooting a career-best 59.4 percent from the field.
Miami’s offense could get a boost with the return of Dwyane
Wade, who has sat out three of the last four games to protect his
Wade shot 3 of 11 and scored only 10 points the last time Miami
played in Indiana – a 91-77 loss in Game 6 of the conference finals
– but has averaged 24.6 points in his career at Bankers Life
With Wade hampered of late, Ray Allen has seen his role
increase. Allen has averaged 12.5 points in the last four games,
shooting 53.1 percent from the field.
When asked about the rivalry and a potential race for the top
spot in the East, James refused to raise the stakes for this game
after Miami’s 110-95 win over Detroit on Sunday.
“I don’t get too much involved in regular-season matchups,
especially early and in December. We’re looking forward to the
opportunity to play them on Tuesday, but it’s not like it’s a
statement game for us.”
The Heat and Pacers meet again on Dec. 18 in Miami, but do not
play each other again until March 26.