Indiana Pacers at Miami HEAT Game Preview
Photo Credit: HEAT
The Miami HEAT host the Indiana Pacers Friday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Get your tickets now! Tip-off is set for 8:00 PM, and television coverage is on FOX Sports Sun. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket.
1: What did you like the most about Miami’s victory over San Antonio?
Couper Moorhead: It’s all about the defense. Spearheaded by Hassan Whiteside, his blocks and all the other possessions where he didn’t get a block but thwarted a better shot for a worse shot, the HEAT held the Spurs to one of their worst offensive games in a decade and LaMarcus Aldridge (6 points on 14 shots) to his worst offensive game in a Spurs uniform. This is a number that is influenced by San Antonio’s propensity for mid-range shots, but the Shot Quality (expected effective field-goal percentage) Miami allowed Wednesday night was by far the lowest opponent Shot Quality of the season. San Antonio kept the game close because Miami didn’t have its best scoring night either (Goran Dragić and Dwyane Wade were both out), but this was clearly the step forward the HEAT needed after a shaky week or so on the defensive end.
Joe Beguiristain: Above all else, I liked Hassan Whiteside’s tenacity from the get-go.
Simply put, the big fella set the tone early on and nearly recorded a triple-double in the first half against the Spurs. And although he ultimately came up just a block short, he altered plenty of shots at the rim and made San Antonio scramble for offense more often than not. In fact, Whiteside contested a game-high 18 shots on the night and held LaMarcus Aldridge to just two points on 1-of-8 shooting in 42 possessions against the 33-year-old.
That great defensive effort wasn’t limited to just Whiteside however, as Rodney McGruder made things very tough on DeMar DeRozan and Josh Richardson did his thing against Patty Mills and held his various assignments to a combined 1-of-11 shooting from the field. 1-of-11! And as a unit, the HEAT recovered 16 loose balls and had 14 deflections.
That’s what this franchise is all about.
2: What has changed about the Pacers this year?
Couper: Indiana underwent a fairly significant makeover last year when they traded Paul George for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis, and then Oladipo took such a massive leap with his game to All-Star status. This year was a little more about working in the margins and filling in any gaps in the roster. Doug McDermott was signed to add some shooting off the bench. Kyle O’Quinn was brought in to shore up a strong center rotation of Myles Turner and Sabonis, and perhaps most significantly, Tyreke Evans was signed to add a boost of shot creation and shooting.
So the roster has been fleshed out but Indiana still plays the same. Similar to the Spurs Wednesday night, the Pacers take more mid-range jumpers than most teams in this day and age. They have the outside shooting to supplement those shots, however, and we can’t forget their 25-point win in Miami last November when just about every single one of those mid-range shots seemed to fall.
Joe: The Pacers added a few new players over the offseason, including Tyreke Evans, Doug McDermott, Kyle O’Quinn and Aaron Holiday. Of those guys, Evans has made the biggest impact thus far thanks to having a more prominent role on the team. In fact, the 29-year-old shooting guard is averaging 10.9 points and 2.6 assists in 19.8 minutes per game.
But as Coup mentioned above, Indiana is still anchored by budding superstar Victor Oladipo and do-it-all big Domantas Sabonis.
In 137 minutes with the duo on the floor together, the Pacers are outscoring opponents by 8.1 points per 100 possessions.
Not too shabby.
3: What about the Pacers makes them dangerous Friday night?
Couper: Oladipo is the easy answer here because of his combination of elite defense and all-around shot creation – he’s just as capable as burning you to the rim as he is pulling up from 25-feet – but we’re going to piggy-back off the previous answer and say its Indiana’s depth. As we’ve often noted, one of Miami’s greatest regular season strengths is that they have such a deep roster that they almost always find sections of any given game where they have a talent advantage over the lineup on the floor for the opponent. Against Indiana, that inherent advantage likely won’t play as well with how balanced the Pacers’ roster is.
Joe: Indiana is one of the most well-rounded teams in the league, as it owns a top 15 offense and a top 10 defense. But one thing that really stands out about the Pacers is their ability to force turnovers and score off them. Of course, when you have strong defenders in Oladipo, Cory Joseph and Thaddeus Young, that makes sense.
All told, Indiana forces 15.8 turnovers per game and turns those mistakes into 20.4 points per contest, which is the fourth-most in the league. As such, Miami has to really be careful with the ball on Friday night. But after committing 17 turnovers in each game against the Hawks and Pistons, the HEAT only had 13 versus San Antonio. We’ll see if they can keep their miscues to a minimum once again.
INJURY UPDATE: Goran Dragić (Right Knee Injury) and Dwyane Wade (Personal Reasons) are out.
- The HEAT have won six of their last seven games against the Pacers in Miami.
- Thanks to winning two straight, Miami is now 5-5 on the year. Indiana, meanwhile, has dropped two in a row and is 7-5.
- Four HEAT players are shooting over 40 percent from downtown, including Wayne Ellingon, Rodney McGruder, Dwyane Wade and Josh Richardson.
- Victor Oladipo leads the Pacers in points (24.1), assists (4.3) and steals (1.6) per game.
- HEAT Offense: 108.1 (15)
- HEAT Defense: 106.6 (12)
- Pacers Offense: 109.0 (14)
- Pacers Defense: 105.2 (7)