Monday, March 26 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, 7 p.m.
Countdown to Tipoff: Pacers vs. Heat
By Conrad Brunner
SCOUTING THE PACERS: The Pacers get one more chance to prove themselves against Miami. They've dropped all three this year, five in a row and nine of 10 against the big three. With the offense coming to life, Indiana might be in position to challenge Miami's smothering defense. The Pacers have scored at least 100 points five times in the last seven games, including a season-high 125 in a 21-point rout in Milwaukee Saturday. They've averaged 103.1 points, 47 percent shooting overall and 41 percent from the arc in that span.
Central to the surge has been the play of Roy Hibbert, who has averaged 18.8 points on 59 percent shooting in the last five, and Danny Granger, who has averaged 21 points on 48 percent shooting in the last four. Bolstered by the addition of Leandro Barbosa, the bench also has been much more productive, averaging 41.8 points in the last eight games including a season-high 67 in Milwaukee. George Hill has played a major role in the second unit's productivity, averaging 12.1 points on 53 percent shooting in his last 11 games, including 24 in Milwaukee. The game could mark the Indiana debut of recently signed center Kyrylo Fesenko of the Ukraine, though he is not expected to play even if in uniform.
SCOUTING THE HEAT: Though Miami might be otherwise occupied by its battle with Chicago and Oklahoma City for the best record in the NBA and thus homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs, this team has always found the time and energy to torture the Pacers. The first two meetings this season were demoralizing blowouts in which the Heat put Indiana in its two deepest deficits of the year -- 35 in the first game, 37 in the second.
The third matchup was totally different. Indiana led by four with the ball in the final 90 seconds of regulation, and by five with less than two minutes left in overtime but could protect neither lead and lost 93-91 on a shot Miami really wasn't trying to make. Dwyane Wade's first priority was to draw a foul, but the officials didn't bit when he pump-fakes Paul George into the air and then leaned in to create the contact. When no whistle came, Wade leaned back and tossed up an awkward jumper that won the game.
KEY MATCHUP: LeBron James obviously has been the biggest problem for the Pacers, averaging 27.7 points, 8.0 assists and 8.3 rebounds this season but Indiana can't offset him. In order to compete with the Heat, the Pacers must get supreme production from the second unit. In the two blowout losses, the bench points were virtually even (the Pacers held a slight 72-71 edge). In the game the Pacers were in position to win, they had an 11-point advantage in bench points.
QUOTE MARKS: "The second group is a lot different than the first group. We (starters) have a lot more size and they (reserves) have a lot more speed. They’re able to switch everything and get on the break." - Hibbert
INJURY REPORT: For the Pacers, none are reported. For the Heat, Mike Miller (sprained left ankle) is out.
TICKETS: Buy now, tickets starting at $10
BROADCAST INFO: The game will be telecast on Fox Sports Indiana with Chris Denari and Quinn Buckner calling the game with Brook Olzendam hosting the pregame show starting at 6:30. The radio broadcast will air on WIBC 93 FM, featuring Mark Boyle and Bob "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.