Malcolm Brogdon, Duncan Robinson
NBAE/Getty Images

Pacers, Heat Prepare for Yet Another Showdown

by Wheat Hotchkiss
Pacers.com Writer/Editor
@Wheat_Hotchkiss

Heading into Friday's regular season finale, the Pacers and Heat know that they will face each other in the first round of the playoffs.

They do not, however, know their seeding. Whoever wins on Friday will be the fourth seed and receive "homecourt advantage" in the best-of-seven series. The loser of Friday's game will be the fifth seed and have to start the postseason on "the road."

But how big a factor is homecourt advantage when every game will be played within the NBA's bubble in Orlando?

"Nonexistent," Pacers guard T.J. McConnell quipped following Thursday's practice.

"For me in the playoffs, the fans are a huge part of the game. Although they're here virtually, you just can't make up for them not being here. So I really think the homecourt advantage at that point is kind of taken away from you."

"It's just a different situation," Pacers head coach Nate McMillan added. "There's no home court in the sense of having your fanbase, sleeping in your own bed. It's none of that."

With homecourt advantage playing a lesser role this year, both the Pacers and Heat are expected to take precautions in Friday's regular season finale. Indiana already held out leading scorer T.J. Warren (plantar fasciitis in his right foot) and starting point guard Malcolm Brogdon (sore neck) in Wednesday's win over the Rockets.

"There's some guys that we may need to look at cutting their minutes or resting them due to some injuries and some fatigue, but the guys that are out there, we want to work and compete," McMillan said.

While Friday's game won't likely be a full-on playoff preview, the Pacers are very familiar with the Heat. When the season stopped in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, McMillan's staff began preparing for potential playoff series with Miami, Boston, and Philadelphia – the Pacers' most likely first-round opponents.

The Pacers and Heat did play at (nearly) full strength on Monday night. Indiana struggled offensively all night, shooting just 39.3 percent in a 114-92 loss that dropped them to 0-3 on the season against the Heat.

But at Thursday's practice, Brogdon seemed undeterred by Indiana's regular season struggles with Miami.

"We played a pretty bad game against the Heat two games ago (but) we were tied at halftime," he said. "I really think we have an opportunity to beat this team.

"It's definitely going to be a tough series. They're a very good team, but we're a very good team. We're going to rise to the occasion and we're going to take care of business."

The Pacers have advanced to the playoffs now in each of McMillan's four seasons as head coach, but have yet to make it past the first round. While some new players like Warren will be making their playoff debut, others like Brogdon and McConnell bring substantial postseason experience to the locker room.

McConnell reached the second round of the playoffs in each of the past two seasons with Philadelphia. Brogdon lost in hard-fought first-round series in his first two years in Milwaukee before breaking through last year with a run to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Both players said Thursday that there is no real comparison between the regular season and the intensity of a seven-game playoff series.

"In the regular season, when you play a team, you lock into their schemes at shootaround and practice for a day and then you move on," McConnell said. "I think in the playoffs, the things that you don't do well in Game 1 you have to adjust in Game 2.

"It's all about adjustments and locking into what players do, their tendencies. You have to do it at the highest level to win in the playoffs."

"It's a higher level, a higher plane of basketball in the playoffs, so your game has to rise," Brogdon said. "In my mind, I have no choice but to get better, for me to be more efficient, for my stats to be better for us to win more games. My level of excellence actually rises during the playoffs. It's a mental switch for me.

"And I think my guys will feed off of that. They'll see my level of focus turn up a notch and theirs will, too."

Pacers Focused on Heat

August 13, 2020: The Pacers are Heat set to face each other tomorrow and in the first round of the playoffs, so the team's attention is fully on them. Hear from Nate McMillan, T.J. McConnell, and Malcolm Brogdon as they discuss preparing for multiple games against Miami.

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Pacers Focused on Heat

August 13, 2020: The Pacers are Heat set to face each other tomorrow and in the first round of the playoffs, so the team's attention is fully on them. Hear from Nate McMillan, T.J. McConnell, and Malcolm Brogdon as they discuss preparing for multiple games against Miami.
Aug 13, 2020  |  02:10
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