By: Santiago Archieri
Seven nation army blasting through the speakers of the arena by the bay. The fans jumping up and down, covered in their white hot gear. The Heat player’s fist pumping, celebrating their blowout win to advance to the NBA finals for a fourth consecutive year. This was a little over four months ago, as the Miami Heat blew out the Indiana Pacers, ending their season for a third straight year.
Now, as the Pacers come down to sunny south Florida for an Eastern Conference Finals rematch, the feeling is not the same. For the past three seasons, a Heat-Pacers game was the game to watch, the primetime matchup–everyone seemed to tune their televisions on to watch what seemed to be the meanest and most feared teams in the East.
With an injured Paul George, the departure of big mouth Lance Stephenson, and LeBron fleeing from Miami, there is a feeling that this rivalry will be short lived.
The struggling and ailing Indiana Pacers will be coming into Miami off a win, just their second of the season, as they improved their record to 2-6 by beating the Utah Jazz. With the decline of Roy Hibbert and the injury woes, wins will be tough to come by for Indiana this season. So far, the offense has been tough for Indiana. Chris Copeland has been their leading scorer averaging 15.4 points a game. To put this into perspective, Miami’s third leading scorer averages more than Indiana’s leading scorer- Luol Deng is averaging 15.6 points per game. The Pacers rank in the shadows of the league with 18.4 assists a game, and are 25th in the league with 93 points per game. This is Miami’s chance to get some defense going for them since the Pacers have been showing very little signs of offensive life.
The Heat are coming off back to back wins, a great response to back to back losses. Miami had an impressive win against the Mavericks, a win in which teamwork was executed in a beautiful way, and a win in which the score might not show how dominant Miami played. Miami built a lead that at one point in the fourth quarter was at 22, and the only reason the final score was somewhat close is because of a late game surge that Dallas put in the final five minutes, when the game was already decided.
Miami put on a team display in their quick trip in Dallas. Luol Deng led the way with 30 points, and Miami dropped 31 assists on 42 field goals. The great ball movement also led to a pretty amount of good looking shots, the Heat finished their night in Dallas with a 55% shooting mark from the field. However, the rebounding was, once again, a huge issue. Dallas brought down 15 offensive rebounds, and but won the rebound battle by just three.
Wednesday night will be a fun battle to see. Miami’s high power offense will face the Pacers intimidating defense (ranked fourth in opponent points per game), while the struggling Miami defense will face the sub-par Indiana offense. This game will answer some questions that fans might be asking themselves. For one, how worried should Miami be about their defense. If the Pacers come into Miami and score 100, it might be a call for some concern. In seven games, the most Miami has allowed was 92, but they have allowed 96 three times, and Miami opponents have passed 100 points in 2 games thus far. Also, with Birdman being active, Haslem slowly returning, and Granger preparing his return soon, how will Miami function with their rotation? Shawne Williams has been shining at his role so far this season after he got off to a slow start, so this will be an interesting issue that Spoelstra will have to address.
Indiana at Miami, tonight at 7:30.