Friday, April 11, 2014 at 7:30 PM ET at American Airlines Arena

Game Preview: Pacers at Heat

Scott Agness | Updated: April 11, 2014, 11:10 a.m.

Matchup

When the Pacers (54-25) and Miami Heat (53-25) get together, it’s appointment TV for NBA fans. That’s no different on Friday, when they tangle for the final time in the regular season down in Miami. So far, in their three previous meetings, the home team has held serve.

Indiana’s starters will return to the court after being held out for rest Wednesday night in Milwaukee, a daring decision by head coach Frank Vogel after consultation with his key players, other coaches, and management. Three of starters – Paul George, David West and Roy Hibbert – hadn’t missed a game all year until Wednesday. By the time Friday’s game tips, the starters will have had almost five days between games, including three days off.

Vogel’s plan couldn’t have gone any better than it did on Wednesday. The reserves had fun, played loose, and regained individual confidence that is hard to build when on the floor in short bursts. Seldom-used Chris Copeland, who’s kept a positive spirit throughout the year, scored the game-winning bucket on a runner. The starters leaped up off the bench and joined their teammates on the floor in celebration.

The Pacers aren’t the only ones fighting fatigue at this juncture. Miami downplayed the importance of the No. 1 seed all season, but as Indiana piled up losses in a hurry and it became reasonable again, it caused the two-time defending champions to continue to push late in the season. If not for the tight race, it’s reasonable that four-time MVP LeBron James and others would be getting time off or playing reduced minutes, at the least.

Dwyane Wade is a key ingredient for the Heat and critical for them to make a long postseason run. He’s sat out the last eight games with a hamstring strain, and has missed 27 games in total this season (the Heat are 17-10 without him). To put that in perspective, no Indiana player has missed more than 18 games — and that’s C.J. Watson, who played his first game in nearly a month on Wednesday.

Chris Andersen, Udonis Haslem, and Greg Oden all joined Wade in street clothes on the bench Wednesday. Oden, in fact, hasn’t played since Roy Hibbert torched him in the first six minutes of their last meeting back on March 26th (also the last game Wade played).

At Friday morning's shootaround, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Wade and Oden will sit out Friday night's game, Haslem will play, and Andersen is a game-time decision.

It will be interesting to see who Spoelstra goes with at power forward. David West typically has his way inside against Shane Battier, who didn’t see the court last go around. Udonis Haslem is a likely candidate, although he’s missed their last two ball games.

PLAYOFF PICTURE: Breaking Down the Standings and Explaining Tiebreakers »

Up one in the win column, the Pacers have a half-game lead on the Heat with three games to play. They control their own destiny, in terms of the 1-seed. Beat the Heat and win at least one of their final two games (vs. Oklahoma City, at Orlando), and it is theirs. The Heat, meanwhile, have three games remaining after Friday (at Atlanta, at Washington, vs. Philadelphia).

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

Ray Allen

Ray Allen

LeBron James

LeBron James

Shane Battier

Shane Battier

Chris Bosh

Chris Bosh

Injury Update

Pacers: Andrew Bynum (out, sore right knee)
Heat: Chris Andersen (game-time decision, bruised right knee), Greg Oden (out, back spasms), Dwyane Wade (out, strained left hamstring)

Noteworthy

  • The Pacers have lost their last five regular season games in Miami.
  • Drafted in 2002 by the Heat with the 53rd overall pick, Rasual Butler played 182 games over three seasons in Miami from 2002-05, averaging 6.9 points and 2.1 rebounds per game.

Last Meeting

March 26: In a game that lived up to its billing, the Pacers slipped by the Heat, 84-83, at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Both teams had lost seven of their last 12 games before this one tipped off, but the usual intensity and playoff-like flair was there. Up four with 5:01 to play, Lance Stephenson was ejected after receiving his second technical foul, this one for taunting. His replacement, Evan Turner, scored back-to-back layups during a critical stretch. The Pacers shot just 37 percent but made two consecutive stops and clinched their second straight Central Division title in the process.

Paul George led the Pacers with 23 points and Roy Hibbert tallied 21, 11 coming in the first quarter. David West (13 points, nine rebounds) struggled from the field, going 3-for-11, but he hit a critical 3-pointer with 50 seconds left. LeBron James scored a game-high 38 points. Wade had 15 before leaving the game early due to strained hamstring.

Broadcast Information | Find Local Listings »

TV: FOX Sports Indiana/NBATV – 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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