Wednesday, March 26, 2014 at 8:00 PM ET at Bankers Life Fieldhouse

Game Preview: Pacers vs Heat

Scott Agness | Updated: March 25, 2014, 6:15 p.m.

Matchup

The two best teams in the Eastern Conference take the NBA’s center stage Wednesday night. The defending champions visit Bankers Life Fieldhouse for an anticipated primetime contest as Indiana and Miami meet in the third of four regular-season matchups between last year’s Eastern Conference finalists.

The Pacers (51-20) have had their struggles in March, but so, too, have the Heat (48-21). Heading into this clash, they’ve each lost seven of their last 12 games. While the offensive end has been most troublesome for Indiana, who’s been held under 80 points in three straight games, it’s been the other end of the floor for Miami. In each of those seven losses, the Heat have given up at least 95 points and they've allowed opponents to score over 100 points five times.

Heat forward Chris Bosh described their recent play as "not troubling but upsetting.”

Indiana’s real strength in this matchup has been with the inside game, and likely was a key factor in Miami hiring the services of Greg Oden. The Heat have taken a cautious approach to testing Oden’s knees and working him back into game shape. The Lawrence North High School graduate has played in 21 games, with five starts, including Monday’s game against Portland. He’s averaging 3.0 points and 2.3 rebounds in just nine minutes per game.

With Oden in the starting lineup, the Heat, who have typically played small ball, present a different look. Indiana needs to start getting something out of big man Roy Hibbert. He has just seven points, five rebounds and 10 fouls in 47 minutes over the last two games. His teammates acknowledge how they’ve gone away from the inside-out style of play that was successful earlier in the season, and that they need to establish a post presence early in games.

In Monday’s loss in Chicago, the Pacers recorded a season-low 11 assists. At this point in the season, teams know each others' sets. As such the Pacers need to do better at countering the defense's reactions and getting through all of their reads. Players are standing around too frequently and instead need to screen and help set up others.

With the Heat, it’s always about not letting multiple members of the Big Three — LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh — go off. James, 29, is third in the NBA in scoring at 26.8 points per game to go along with his 6.9 rebounds and 6.4 assists. Paul George, who’s shooting less than 28 percent from the floor in his last five games, will matchup against the four-time MVP most of the game, though Pacers head coach Frank Vogel may mix it up.

Hitting the final stretch, with just about a dozen games remaining, the Pacers have a two-game lead on the Heat entering this contest, one that’ll undoubtedly have a playoff-like atmosphere. Vogel says “it’s just one of 82” [games]," but also calls it "a double points game" because a win or loss impacts the Heat in the opposite way.

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

Chris Bosh

Chris Bosh

Greg Oden

Greg Oden

Injury Update

Pacers: Andrew Bynum (out, sore right knee), C.J. Watson (out, right hamstring strain)
Heat: Dwyane Wade (game-time decision, left Achilles strain), Ray Allen (doubtful, stomach virus)

Quotable

“We’re attacking a different type of defense tomorrow night. [They] want to do a lot more trapping in the pick-and-roll game and in the post, and we just got to adjust our approach, in terms of understanding the scheme we’re attacking, and then just get back to our fundamentals offensively.” – Frank Vogel

“He’s a heck of a player. He gives you good rim protection, (and a) finisher inside. It’s part of their sort of shift in philosophy this year of playing with more big lineups than they did last year. He’s doing a great job for them.” – Frank Vogel on Greg Oden

“We had a real good practice (Tuesday). I think we got better. It’s always nice to have some practice days at home. Hopefully that can translate to us doing things well on the court and winning the right way.” – Roy Hibbert

“Another measuring stick for us, especially now more than ever because we haven’t been playing as well as we want to.” – Paul George

“We made the game extremely hard, overthinking things and just not playing the game the right way.” – Paul George

“We’ve become a jump-shooting team. We have two of the best bigs down low, in David [West] and Roy [Hibbert], so we have to use our assets and go towards them and let them facilitate.” – George Hill on the offense

Noteworthy

  • The Pacers have won three straight meetings against the Heat in Indy, including two games in last year’s playoffs.
  • Miami is 17-3 at home against conference foes, but just 11-10 on the road.
  • This game will be Indiana’s 24th sellout of the season. They had 10 last year.
  • Drafted in 2002 (No. 53 overall) by the Heat, Rasual Butler played 182 games over three seasons (2002-05) in Miami and averaged 6.9 points and 2.1 rebounds per game.
  • SportsCenter will also be on site in Indianapolis with all-day coverage led by Sage Steele and analysts Tim Legler, Michael Wilbon and Stephen A. Smith.
  • Tonight’s game is “IMS Night,” where every fan will receive a sign and be asked to participate in an eye-catching card stunt where the entire arena will be transformed into a special message.
  • The Pacers are launching Google Glass for an enhanced in-arena experience. While at the game, fans can expect to see never-before-seen, first-person views from Public Address Announcer Michael Grady, members of the Pacemates, and the trainer for the Frisbee dog, among others.

Last Meeting

December 18: The Pacers led for most of three quarters and by as many as 15 points, but they let this one, their second meeting of the year with the Heat, get away. Up seven with 3:21 to play, the Pacers were outscored 12-2 to end the game in a 97-94 loss in Miami. Indiana had an opportunity to tie the game or send it into overtime, but George Hill’s pass along the baseline to Paul George had too much on it.

Paul George had 25 points on 8-of-16 shooting, eight rebounds, and six assists. David West scored 23 and Lance Stephenson contributed 13 points and nine rebounds. Miami’s Dwyane Wade led all scorers with 32 points and LeBron James, who was questionable before the game because of an ankle sprain, ended the night with 24 points. Miami had the advantage in the paint, outscoring Indiana 50-30.

Broadcast Information | Find Local Listings »

TV: FOX Sports Indiana – Chris Denari (play-by-play), Quinn Buckner (analyst), Brooke Olzendam (sideline reporter/host)
ESPN - Mike Tirico (play-by-play), Jeff Van Gundy (analyst), Israel Gutierrez (reporter)
Radio: FM 107.5/AM 1070 The Fan, Pacers Radio Network – Mark Boyle (play-by-play), Slick Leonard (analyst), Kevin Lee (sideline reporter/host)

Ticket Information

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