Countdown to Tipoff: Heat at Pacers 120214
Tuesday, Feb. 14 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, 7 p.m.
Countdown to Tipoff: Pacers (17-10) vs. Heat (22-7)
By Conrad Brunner
SCOUTING THE PACERS: Early in the season, they won with defense. Then, the offense started to come around. All of a sudden, however, the Pacers are struggling in both directions. As a result, they carry a three-game losing streak into their first back-to-back-to-back set of the season. For much of the first month, they were a top three team in points and field goal percentage allowed but that has slipped. In the last three games they've yielded 102.7 points on .475 shooting. It's not hard to pinpoint a major source: transition defense. The Pacers have yielded 56 fast-break points in those three games, an average of 18.7 and a jump of more than five over their previous average of 12.6. They're also losing all of the intangible categories: minus 26 in the paint, minus six on second-chances, minus 22 on the fast break, minus 12 on turnover points, minus 11 in turnovers, minus nine in rebounds and minus 10 in free throws made.
Though the offense racked up 109 points on 53 percent shooting against Denver Saturday, it was a deceptive number because the Nuggets have the combination of a porous defense and an up-tempo offense that increases the number of possessions, thus driving up scores. The Pacers committed 20 turnovers, were outrebounded 39-31 and outscored by five from the free-throw line at home. Danny Granger has been up and down but generally has been solid of late, averaging 21.9 points on .424 shooting in the last 11. David West has surged with consecutive 22-point outings, and A.J. Price scored a season-high 13 off the bench against the Nuggets. Jeff Foster may be available, but the Pacers will not have sixth man George Hill, who will miss his eighth game in a row. They've gone 3-4 since he went down with an ankle injury.
SCOUTING THE HEAT: On the surface, you look at the last meeting, a 118-83 dismantling of the Pacers in Miami, add in the fact Dwyane Wade missed that game and it's easy to come up with the conclusion this one should be a cakewalk for the Heat. To be sure, Miami is a daunting opponent but there are circumstances that work against the Heat. The biggest is that this will be the third of an all-road back-to-back-to-back set for a relatively thin team. Miami routed Atlanta 107-87 Sunday and then smacked the Bucks 114-96 in Milwaukee Monday night. This also is the fifth of six consecutive road games, so fatigue could be a major factor.
The Pacers will take any edge they can get against one of the league's most explosive offensive teams, ranking second in points (103.4), first in field goal percentage (.485) and fourth in 3-point percentage (.392). The big three of LeBron James, Wade and Chris Bosh is combining for 69 points, 20 rebounds, 13 assists, four steals and three blocks per game. Point guard Mario Chalmers provides a deadly 3-point threat (.471) for teams that double off the point guard and the bench has solid veterans in Shane Battier, Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller along with productive rookie Norris Cole.
KEY MATCHUP: With Granger and Paul George on the wings, the Pacers have defenders capable of making James and Wade work for their points, which is central to the game plan against Miami. The key is staying in front of them, trying to encourage as many jump shots as possible. If James and Wade consistently get inside the defense, the Pacers will be in big trouble.
QUOTE MARKS: "Focus on the task at hand. That's the only approach you can have to get back on the winning track. You have won game to win and that's the only thing that matters. Nothing in the past matters, nothing in the future matters. We've got to just focus on the task at hand and try to get a W." - Pacers Coach Frank Vogel
INJURY REPORT: For the Pacers, Jeff Foster (lower back) is day-to-day; George Hill (chip fracture, left ankle) is out. For the Heat, Dexter Pittman (shoulder) is day-to-day.
TICKETS: Buy now
BROADCAST INFO: The game will be telecast at 7 p.m. on Fox Sports Indiana with Chris Denari and Quinn Buckner calling the game with Brooke Olzendam hosting the pre-game show at 7:30. The radio broadcast is anchored by the flagship of the Pacers' network, WIBC 93 FM, featuring Mark Boyle in his 24th season of play-by-play, joined by longtime partner Bobby "Slick" Leonard, with Kevin Lee hosting the pre-game and halftime shows.
INTERACT: You can get in-game commentary from this group of Pacers personalities throughout the game on Twitter.