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Pacers, Heat Could See Each Other Again in April

by Conrad Brunner || Caught in the Web Archive

February 14, 2011

I'm pretty sure the concept of the Cinderella team is reserved for the college game.

But the Pacers are quickly becoming the NBA equivalent -- the team in the bottom half of the bracket nobody wants to play.

Which brings us to Tuesday's rematch with the Heat in Conseco Fieldhouse. The teams have played twice, both in Miami. The first was a 93-77 rout by the Pacers on Nov. 22, a loss that shook the Big Three. The second was a 117-112 Miami victory last Tuesday.

That second game might've made a bigger impression than the first. Back in November, Miami was a team still trying to find itself and the Pacers weren't the only team to take advantage of the early vulnerability. Last week, Indiana faced an opponent very much on a roll, riding a six-game winning streak, and the Heat still needed a big fourth-quarter rally to pull out a narrow victory.

"That’s a good basketball team, and they’re playing with a lot of confidence right now," said Miami coach Erik Spoelstra after the game. "They can score the ball. They play quick as you can see. They never let you jog back, even on makes, misses or even on dead balls. They play a frenetic pace. We got caught up a little bit in that pace in the first three quarters. We got a little bit more down to our game defensively there in the fourth, and we were able to pull it out.”

The only loss in eight games under Frank Vogel might've been the Pacers' most impressive performance. Playing against a highly motivated elite opponent on the road, Indiana led 94-81 in the third quarter and 105-100 with seven minutes left but Miami's defense took over. The Pacers missed nine shots in a row as the Heat rallied.

“This team is scrapping and playing their hearts out for that last spot," said Spoelstra. "It’s a competitive conference right now. This is a good basketball team. They have some unique talent. They have a lot of speed. They have guys that can shoot the ball, and they defended well for a majority of the season. They’re playing at a great confidence level right now."

As things stand, the Pacers and 76ers are dueling for seventh and eight, while the Celtics and Heat are fighting over the top two. A first-round playoff matchup, then, is well within the realm of possibility.

“Any time that you play a potential playoff matchup it’s always important and it just seems like when you have a chance to gain ground on other teams it’s always the toughest game to win sometimes because you play a scrappy team like Indiana and they are a playoff team and are probably going to be there," said Bosh last week.

"We have a chance (of) playing them, so I think we need to keep that in mind next time that we play them. Next week in Indiana will be a tougher game, so we need to learn from today’s experience and see where we can help ourselves and keep them out of the paint.”

Tuesday is the final meeting of the regular season, but there's every possibility we haven't seen the last of these teams this year.

Maybe then, it'll be time for the glass slippers.