Indiana Pacers at Miami HEAT Game Preview

Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon

The Miami HEAT host the Indiana Pacers Saturday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Get your tickets now! Tip-off is set for 7:30 PM, and television coverage is on FOX Sports Sun. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket.

1: Was there any real takeaway from the tough loss against the Thunder?

Couper Moorhead: Oklahoma City was up by double digits in the first quarter, scored 41 in the second and never really looked back. There were some incredible performances involved, most notably Paul George shooting 10-of-16 from three and Dennis Schröder going 11-of-13 overall, and some of that was Miami not contesting shots tough enough while some of it was just incredible shot making. The Thunder’s offense was not really the story of the night, though, at least as it pertains to the HEAT. It was hardly Miami’s worst offensive game of the season by the numbers, but the Thunder are such a complete defensive team – long athletes at just about every position, including their bench – that the HEAT weren’t able to generate consistent offensive opportunities other than a few stretches of threes. That’s important to remember next time these teams meet and the George-Schröder combo isn’t as hot.

Joe Beguiristain: It was just a tough outing all the way around for the HEAT, as the Thunder got off to a torrid start and kept their stranglehold on the game all evening. And while Russell Westbrook and Paul George led the charge as usual, Dennis Schröder really changed the complexion of the game in the second quarter with 24 points on 9-of-9 shooting in the period. Simply put, Miami’s defense just wasn’t up to par on Friday night.  

The HEAT also had some trouble on the offensive end, but Kelly Olynyk made his mark with a team-high 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting, including 4-of-6 from deep. The most encouraging thing about his performance was that he obtained his catch-and-shoot threes within the flow of the offense. And when he’s making those, Miami is much more difficult to stop.

Nate McMillan2: How has Indiana changed since losing Victor Oladipo for the season?

Couper: To begin, we wish Oladipo a speedy and full recovery. It was awful to see the game ripped away from him like that as his career was truly coming into shape.

The Pacers have lost all four games since Oladipo went down, with close losses to Memphis and Orlando and double-digit losses to the Warriors and Wizards. They’ve been especially shorthanded in three of those games with Tyreke Evans – status unknown for Saturday night – also out, an absence especially harmful with Oladipo out since Evans stands to gain a significant degree of offensive responsibility for a team that could use more creation. The defense has slipped a little of late but you figure a team that was previously the No. 1 defense in the league will find a way to right the ship on that end. It’s offensively where they’ll have to find enough to survive, and Saturday night the Pacers will be counting on Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis – in a midst of a lull in his highly efficient season – to keep them going inside while their stable of steady ballhandlers rely on a variety of dribble jumpers in pick-and-roll.

Joe: The Pacers have struggled mightily since Oladipo went down, as they own the second-worst net rating in the league during that span (minus-15.2). But to be fair, a 132-100 shellacking to the Warriors likely plays a major role in that poor number.

Still, a few guys have stepped up in Oladipo’s stead, including Myles Turner and Darren Collison. In fact, Turner is coming off an impressive 27-point performance against the Magic on Thursday in which he was an absolute force in the pick-and-roll. And of course, mid-range jumpers were part of the equation. For the season, Turner is shooting 45.7 percent (74-of-162) from that zone, which is pretty solid.

Collison, meanwhile, has continued to feed Turner on those jumpers, as the 31-year-old vet has upped his points and assists over the past four games to help make up for Oladipo.

We’ll see how the HEAT decide to defend the formidable duo.

3: Where are the HEAT going to have to find their shots Saturday night?

Couper: The Pacers aren’t too unlike the Thunder in that they have capable defenders up and down their roster – though they will miss Oladipo’s quick, turnover-creating hands – and can make themselves especially difficult to break down. But similar to the Bucks, Celtics and Grizzlies they prioritize protecting the paint while relying on disciplined closeouts to contest and limit potentially assisted threes. Only those three teams listed allow a higher percentage of opponent shots to come from three, and of those the Pacers allow the fewest in the corner. In other words, the HEAT are going to get their threes Saturday night. If the Pacers struggle to find their offense Miami won’t need to have an off the charts game from deep, but they’ll want to hit their averages – something that’s been a struggle of late with so many games landing as outliers either well above or below those averages.

Joe: The Pacers are pretty good at protecting the rim and limiting corner threes, but they do allow a decent amount of above-the-break treys. And while Miami shoots better from the corners (particularly the left corner), the team is right around league average in percentage on those non-corner looks.

So long story short, the HEAT will have to attack the basket and keep the ball moving in order to make Indiana’s defense react. From there, hopefully Miami can exploit a mismatch or miscommunication and score a little easier than it has during the past two games.

INJURY UPDATE: Tyreke Evans is available for Indiana.

Pacers at HEAT Head To Head

Game Notes:

  • The HEAT are 24-26, while the Pacers enter the contest at 32-19.
  • Josh Richardson leads Miami in points (17.4) and steals (1.1) per game.
  • With Victor Oladipo out, Bojan Bogdanović now leads Indiana in scoring at 16.1 points per contest.

Efficiencies (Rank):

  • HEAT Offense: 106.2 (22)
  • HEAT Defense: 106.7 (6)
  • Pacers Offense: 109.0 (16)
  • Pacers Defense: 104.9 (4)

For live in-game updates of Saturday night’s contest, follow @MiamiHEAT, @CoupNBA and @JoeBeguiristain on Twitter.

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