Heat-Pacers Preview

Not even LeBron James and the prolific Miami Heat offense could

overcome the stifling defense of the Indiana Pacers when the teams

faced each other in early January.

Indiana seeks a third straight regular-season victory over

visiting Miami when the Eastern Conference’s top defense meets its

highest-scoring offense Friday night.

The only time the Heat were held below 84 points all season came

in an 87-77 loss the Pacers on Jan. 8 as James tied a season high

with seven turnovers – half of his team’s total for the contest. He

did have 22 points while Dwyane Wade scored 30 and Chris Bosh added

14, but their teammates combined to shoot 4 for 22 from the


Miami (29-13) tops the league in field-goal shooting at 48.9

percent, ranks fourth in turnovers with 13.8 per game and averages

an East-leading 102.7 points, though it has struggled against the

defense-first philosophy of Indiana in recent matchups.

The Pacers, who lead the NBA in field-goal percentage defense

(41.9) and the East in scoring defense (89.9), led last season’s

second-round playoff series with the Heat 2-1 before dropping three

straight. They’ve held Miami under 78 points each of the last three

times they’ve beaten the Heat, including that series.

Paul George had 29 points and 11 rebounds in the last meeting

and played a key role in frustrating James for most of the


“It’s a chance for me to see where I’m at, going against one of

the best, if not, the best in the league,” George said after that

game. “Another challenge to myself to go at LeBron.”

Since George’s 2010-11 rookie season, the Pacers are 4-1 against

the Heat when holding James to 25 points or fewer and 1-8 when they

don’t. George, scoring a career-best 17.4 points per game, averaged

only 10.0 and shot 36.5 percent in the playoff series versus the


“He was a good player last year, but we weren’t able to see it

because he wasn’t a featured player,” James said in January.

Indiana has won the last two regular-season matchups after

dropping nine of 10, but it will have to contend with a Miami team

which has won five of six following a 105-85 victory at Brooklyn on


“When we’re playing at a high level, that’s what we’re capable

of doing,” said James, who had 24 points, nine rebounds and seven

assists. “We showed what we’re capable of, both defensively and


Dwyane Wade scored 21 points and shot 9 for 16 after going 6 for

20 with six turnovers in a 100-98 double-overtime loss at Boston on


“We just knew we could play better,” said Wade, averaging 32.3

points in his last four versus the Pacers, including playoffs. “We

want to get better on the road, so I thought we took a step


The Pacers (27-19) lost the final three of their four-game road

trip before returning home to beat Detroit 98-79 on Wednesday

despite George hitting only 3 of his 11 shots and committing a

season worst-tying six turnovers.

“I’m proud of our guys coming back off a trip and taking care of

business,” coach Frank Vogel said. “We had an edge, which is

important when you have a losing streak.”

Vogel also lauded the all-around effort of Lance Stephenson, who

had 12 points and a season-high 11 rebounds after scoring a

season-best 20 points in Monday’s loss at Denver.

“He’s a big reason for our success this year on both ends of the

basketball,” Vogel said of Stephenson, who likely will be guarding

Wade. “He’s an in-your-face defender. When he’s at his best, we’re

awful tough to beat.”