Dec 18, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6) and Indiana Pacers small forward Paul George (24) both chase a loose ball during the first half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Miami Heat vs Indiana Pacers: Round Three

The floundering Indiana Pacers will face down the Miami Heat for the third time this season. These two teams haven’t faced each other since December 18th, and there hasn’t been much change in the standings since then.

The Pacers have more or less maintained a multi-game lead over the Heat all season. Thankfully it hasn’t just been the Pacers slumping in recent weeks.

Both teams come into the game having lost seven of their last 12 games. With a win, the Heat can tie the Pacers in the loss column and gain some much needed momentum. The Pacers desperately need a big win to not only put some distance between them and the Heat but also to regain some confidence.

The Pacers don’t have an easy schedule to close out the regular season. If they want to turn things around, it starts tonight with the Heat.

This team looks completely lost on the court. Three games ago the Pacers beat up the Bulls at home, and everyone declared that they were back. Since then, Indiana lost road games to Memphis and then Chicago, both of which were pretty ugly. 

The season started with the Pacers appearing to be a tight knit group that really enjoyed playing with each other. They started out with a 33-7 record, and seemed destined to make the NBA Finals. But that hot start started to sour as the Pacers struggled to deal with success.

Indiana is 18-13 since and, aside from the win over the Bulls last Friday, hasn’t had a worthwhile victory since February 7th against Portland. The Pacers seem to have this mentality that inferior teams should just give up after the tip off. And when the going gets tough, certain players think they have to play hero and do everything on their own.

Watch Paul George after a couple empty possessions hoist up a contested shot or Lance Stephenson dribble himself into trouble before a bad pass. Early in the year, they’d find the open man or work for the high percentage shot. They knew how to share the ball and move it around the court. Lately we’ve seen far too many isolation plays from this team.

The efficiency is way down with the Pacers. They have two of the most talented big men in the league (Roy Hibbert and David West) but would rather settle for outside jumpers.

They Pacers have to get back to playing from the inside out and leave more on Hibbert and West who can get those higher percentage shots in the post. The Heat provide a perfect opportunity to do just that, as they lack the size to stop those two on the low block.

There is a lot riding on this game. The winner will have a big leg up when it comes to home court advantage in the playoffs. Despite the recent slides, these two teams seem destined to meet each other in the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Pacers still have a number of tough games left on the schedule, while the Heat get to face a number of sub .500 teams to close out the year (7-of-12 against teams with a losing record).

If the Pacers can’t play well at home, on national TV, and against their most hated opponent then it will be a short trip through the playoffs. They have plenty of time to turn it around on the court, but it has to start tonight.

Game Notes

Dwayne Wade will be a  game time decision with an ankle injury. He has missed the last two games due to a sore Achilles tendon. Ray Allen is likely out with the flu tonight.

Greg Oden will start for the Heat tonight. The Indianapolis native won three state titles with Lawrence North. While the Heat deny that he was brought in to stop Hibbert, that is essentially what his job will be tonight. Despite his recent funk, I like Hibbert to win this match-up. He’s bigger, stronger, and has been playing for the past few years without injury.

The Pacers will be likely be without CJ Watson, who is still nursing a sore hamstring.

Andrew Bynum is also out tonight. Bynum has had swelling in his knees and has only played in two games for the Pacers. Hopefully he’ll be able to contribute by the playoffs, but no one is holding their breath.

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Tags: David West Greg Oden Indiana Pacers Lance Stephenson Paul George Roy Hibbert

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