Indiana Pacers at Miami HEAT Game Preview
Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon
The Miami HEAT host the Indiana Pacers Sunday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Get your tickets now! The HEAT defeated the Pacers 112-108 in their last meeting on Oct. 21. Tip-off is set for 5:00 PM. Television coverage on FOX Sports Sun begins at 4:30 PM. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket.
1: What did the HEAT do well in earning a quality road win at Washington?
Couper Moorhead: Defense. Defense. Defense. After a rough start to the season on that end the HEAT have righted the ship over their last eight games or so and are now the No. 7 defense in the league. On Washington’s own floor the HEAT held a Top 10 offense to 91.6 points per 100 possessions, and even many of the shots they did hit were of the contested variety. No, you can’t expect most teams to miss every three they take in a half, but as long as you’re limiting the good shots you allow then you’ll live with the variance. There’s still work to be done when it comes to the offense – the main reason Miami has given up some big leads – but with the defense at this level it gives them a chance to be in every game down the stretch. Then, even if the offense isn’t perfect it means you’re a dribble jumper from Dion Waiters and James Johnson in the final minutes away from a win. That formula doesn’t work every time, but it’s a foundation that can take teams a good distance.
Joe Beguiristain: As Coup mentioned above, defense was paramount throughout. Case in point: John Wall didn’t hit his first shot until 5:25 remaining in the fourth quarter and finished 3-of-12 from the field. As a whole, Josh Richardson and Justise Winslow made things very tough on Wall, while Hassan Whiteside played great help-side defense. Bradley Beal struggled, too, as he shot 9-of-22 thanks to Dion Waiters hounding him for most of the contest.
While Washington stormed back in the fourth quarter, Whiteside and James Johnson responded with 17 points combined on 7-of-9 shooting in the period. Waiters also nailed two big 3-pointers down the stretch to keep Miami ahead.
When it was all said and done, the HEAT held the Wizards to a season-low 88 points on a paltry 38.1 percent shooting. That’d be impressive against any team, but keep in mind that Washington was the fifth-most efficient offense heading into the night.
2: What did we learn from the last matchup with the Pacers?
Couper: The same thing most of the league has learned, which is that Indiana might be one of the better offenses around. The HEAT had a 21-point lead in the second half of that game but Indiana scored 58 after the break and 32 in the fourth before Miami escaped with a narrow victory. The Pacers play fast, they spread the floor and Myles Turner will be healthy for this one after missing the first matchup, but the real surprise was and has been Victor Oladipo. It took him 23 shots to do so, but Oladipo scored 28 last time out acting largely as the primary playmaker down the stretch. The Pacers have given him the opportunity and he’s run with it.
Note that starter Bojan Bogdanovic only played 21 minutes in that contest as Nate McMillan decided to match up small playing both Darren Collison and Cory Joseph at the same time. And even without Turner, Domantas Sabonis proved to be a very adept center, managing the pick-and-roll extremely well.
Much of Indiana’s early success, however, has been due to 40 percent three-point shooting as a team. Chances are that will come down eventually, but the most important thing to note is that even if the Pacers are shooting well, Miami limits three-point attempts in general and Indiana took only 19 last game.
Joe: We learned that the Pacers should not be taken lightly by any means. Even without one of its best players in Myles Turner, Indiana gave Miami some problems in the second half of that last matchup. While Victor Oladpio did his usual damage from the perimeter, Domantas Sabonis turned heads and Al Jefferson was up to his old tricks in the post.
Even though Jefferson hasn’t played all that much recently with Turner back from injury, Sabonis has been quite impressive coming off the bench. In fact, the 21-year-old is averaging 13.2 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game on 56.8 percent shooting in his last five in a reserve role. Over the course of the season, Sabonis has averaged 1.16 points per possession as the P&R roll man.
Thanks to his sharp play offensively, along with the backcourt duo of Oladipo and Darren Collison, the Pacers have won three of four and stand at 8-8 on the year.
3: How might the HEAT be able to attack Indiana on the offensive end?
Couper: Get to the rim. Only the Lakers allow more shots at the rim and with Miami being one of the most drive-heavy teams in the league this game could come down to how well the HEAT are able to finish on those drives. Now, some of those numbers are skewed a bit due to Turner missing a handful of games with a concussion, but Indiana is still allowing about 30 shots at the rim (among the ten most) since his return so this should be a clear area of attack.
Joe: For as good as Indiana is offensively, the team has struggled on the defensive end for most of the season. As Coup mentioned above, the Pacers have been pretty vulnerable at the rim and in the paint. That said, they don’t give up that many corner threes, so if the shot at the rim isn’t there for Miami, wing-threes and above-the-break threes (which opposing teams are converting at a 37.6 percent rate against Indiana) should be the next-best option.
- The HEAT have won six straight against the Pacers in Miami.
- Indiana has won three of four overall and is 8-8 on the year.
- Kelly Olynyk leads Miami in three-point shooting at 48.7 percent (minimum of two attempts per game).
- Victor Oladipo leads the Pacers in scoring with 23.1 points per contest.
- HEAT Offense: 100.2 (26)
- HEAT Defense: 102.4 (8)
- Pacers Offense: 107.1 (7)
- Pacers Defense: 106.8 (23)