Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 7:00 PM ET at American Airlines Arena

Game Preview: Pacers (20-4) at Heat (18-6)

Scott Agness | December 16, 2013

Matchup

Eight days after their first showdown of the season, the Pacers and Heat face off again, this time in Miami. After Wednesday's meeting, they won’t see each other until the end of March.

It is undoubtedly a two-team race in the Eastern Conference as Indiana and Miami are the only two teams (of 15) with winning records. The Pacers have succeeded on the road, winning nine of 12 contests, but playing in Miami is a different animal. The Pacers are seeking their first regular-season win down there since Nov. 2010.

Miami’s weakness is with their inside game, particularly at power forward. The undersized Shane Battier can’t hold his own against skilled post players, and Udonis Haslem, a starter in 79 percent of their games last season, hasn’t even seen the court in half the games this year. Rashard Lewis played more than 21 minutes in their first meeting, and Michael Beasley didn’t play due to a hamstring injury.

The Heat, who are 11-2 at home and in the midst of a five-game homestand, are two games back of the Pacers. Though they downplay the matchup, they do have complete confidence in their ability to beat the Pacers. The defending champs’ biggest struggle this season has been with consistency. Take the last meeting, where the Heat shot 57 percent and scored 30 points in the first quarter as their offense looked championship-caliber. But then they tapered off in the second half.

LeBron James, who finished with 30 points, nine rebounds and nine assists in a Monday night thrashing of Utah, sprained his left ankle and did not practice Tuesday. His status, along with Dwyane Wade and Michael Beasley, is in question. James’ ankle has swelled, and he said he’d police himself and not force it. After all, it is just December.

With the Pacers, the mindset continues to be the same. Every game is critical in their quest for the No. 1 seed in the East. That’s a totally different approach than the Heat. They’re just trying to maintain their health until the playoffs. James kept Paul George in check during the first half last week, but tired and didn’t guard him in the second half. There’s mutual respect in that pairing, featuring two of the best players in the game.

Frank Vogel wants his Pacers to regain their “dominant” defense. While they’re still the top-ranked defense in the league, they’ve allowed opponents to shoot 40 percent or better in nine consecutive games. Part of that is due to a tougher schedule, but they’ve also slipped up in a few areas.

Probable Starters

George Hill

George Hill

Lance Stephenson

Lance Stephenson

Paul George

Paul George

David West

David West

Roy Hibbert

Roy Hibbert

Mario Chalmers

Mario Chalmers

Dwyane Wade

Dwyane Wade

LeBron James

LeBron James

Shane Battier

Shane Battier

Chris Bosh

Chris Bosh

Injury Update

Pacers: Danny Granger (out, strained left calf)
Heat: LeBron James (day-to-day, left ankle sprain), Dwyane Wade (day-to-day, knee), Michael Beasley (questionable, left hamstring), Greg Oden (doubtful, knees)

Quotable

“We’re playing really good offenses. We’ve played some of the best offensive teams in the game. I’m using those numbers to show my guys that they’re not playing as well, but the truth of the matter is we’ve been playing against some better teams and our defense looks very similar to what it’s looked like all year.” – Frank Vogel on their defense

“The thing with Miami, they’re such a strong-side defensive team. Whoever you’re trying to call a play for, they take it out of their hands with double teams. If you want to get Paul George shots, it’s almost like don’t call his play. Call somebody else’s play and then get the ball moving. If you want him to be a facilitator, give him the ball. If you want him to be a scorer, put him off the ball.” – Frank Vogel

“They have elite athletes and I think that’s probably the best part of their defense. They’re able to shrink the floor as well as get out to shooters and cause havoc on the defense end. And it’s not just LeBron and Dwyane Wade.” – Paul George on Miami

“I’m seeing a lot more double-teams, them pressuring up, loading up on the strong side. And then just trying to deny me the ball, flat-out just denying and causing me to use a lot of energy to get the ball. It’s just going back to me sharing the ball. If that’s how they’re going to guard me, I have the ability to find guys and (be a playmaker).” – Paul George

“Just going to do what I always do. Try to play aggressive, score on the offensive end, clog up the paint and guard shooters.” – Roy Hibbert

"I'm going to sit if I'm not feeling comfortable (Wednesday) night," James said. "It doesn't matter who we are playing. Obviously, if it was a playoff game, I would play. We are a long-term team, and I am a long-term player. I'm going to try my best to police myself on this one." – LeBron on his ankle

Noteworthy

  • The Heat have won the last four regular season battles with the Pacers in Miami.
  • Paul George beat out LeBron James for Eastern Conference Player of the Month for November. James won that award in five of six months last season.
  • The Pacers are 2-4 this season when giving up 100 or more points.
  • Miami’s 18-6 record is tied for their best start in franchise history.

Last Meeting

December 10: The Pacers had jitters in the early going and struggled through the first 24 minutes. They allowed 30 points in the first quarter and gave the ball over too frequently, yet only trailed by seven at halftime. Paul George, who was limited to just two points in the first half, scored the Pacers’ final 10 in the third and then hit a 3-pointer that helped seal the 90-84 win. It was the Heat’s lowest point total of the year.

Roy Hibbert had his way in the post, scoring 24 points and altering a number of shots at the rim. David West and Paul George each had 17. LeBron James shot just 38 percent and scored just seven of his 17 points in the second half. Dwyane Wade added 17. The Pacers outscored the Heat 50-37 in the second half. The Heat entered the game 15-0 on the season when holding opponents under 100 points.

Broadcast Information | Find Local Listings »

TV: ESPN - Mike Breen (play-by-play), Doug Collins (analyst), Chris Broussard (sideline reporter)
FOX Sports Indiana - Chris Denari (play-by-play), Quinn Buckner (analyst), Brooke Olzendam (sideline reporter/host)
Radio: FM 107.5/AM 1070 The Fan, Pacers Radio Network – Mark Boyle (play-by-play), Michael Grady (studio host)

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