When they last met last month at American Airlines Arena, the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers engaged in a physical contest that reminded those involved of their recent playoff meetings.
This matchup could have a much difficult look if Miami has to play without its two stars.
With Dwyane Wade questionable and Chris Both out indefinitely, the Heat will try to continue their home dominance in this series Monday night by denying the Pacers a sweep of their road swing.
It appeared Indiana would take the first three games of this season series Jan. 4 when it opened up an 18-point third-quarter advantage. Wade, however, hit a left-handed layup at the buzzer to force overtime and teamed with Bosh for 58 points in the game as the Heat pulled out a 103-100 victory.
“It felt like a playoff game,” said Wade, who has missed the past two games due to a sore left knee. If he's out again, Gerald Green will likely get another start.
Bosh has already been ruled out because of a blood clot in his left leg. The 11-time All-Star has led Miami in scoring in all three meetings with Indiana, while Wade has totaled 47 points in the last two.
The Heat have won 23 of the past 28 home matchups – including playoff series victories in 2012, '13 and '14 – against the Pacers dating to the '05-06 season. The Southeast Division leaders will likely have to keep getting contributions from others if they hope to win for the ninth time in 12 games.
Luol Deng has totaled 57 points and Goran Dragic has added a combined 41 in the last two games. Hassan Whiteside finished with 25 points and 23 rebounds in Saturday's 114-94 home win over Washington, recording the 11th 20-20 game off the bench in NBA history.
Whiteside had served a one-game suspension during Friday's 115-111 victory at Atlanta for throwing an elbow against San Antonio on Feb. 9. The center has totaled 22 boards in his last two meetings with Indiana but did not play in January due to a sore right knee.
''The next challenge for him is the consistency,'' coach Erik Spoelstra said. ''Does he have to do a 20-20 again on Monday? No, that is not what we're asking for. It's the not the statistics. It's his approach.”
The Pacers (30-25), seeking their eighth victory in the past 11 games, have an opportunity to tie the Heat (31-24) for fourth place in the conference. They've also opened the second half strong, topping Oklahoma City 101-98 on Friday and Orlando 105-102 on Sunday to begin this three-game trip.
Indiana has limited opponents to a 42.8 field-goal percentage – including 23.5 from 3-point range – in those two games. It'll need to continue that trend against a Miami team looking to score 110 points or more in three straight for the first time since November 2013.
The Pacers have held the Heat to 41.7 percent overall and 25.8 from long range in the season series.
''What I love about this team and the way we're playing now is I really trust our defense,'' coach Frank Vogel said. ''We were getting stops and giving ourselves a chance to win.”
Monta Ellis has scored a combined 41 points in his last two games against the Heat, while Paul George has come up big by averaging 30.3 points in the season series.