Indiana Pacers (20-14)
Miami Heat (23-9)
Beat the Heat is the chant you’ll be hearing tonight at Banker’s Life Field House as the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat meet for the first time this season. This is a game that as a Pacers fan and I would hope as a Pacers player you really want to win. This is the Heat team that the Pacers had on the ropes last season with a 2-1 lead in the second round of the playoffs with a good chance of knocking them off. But Lebron James and Dwayne Wade took over, and the rest is history.
Now the Heat are looking to repeat as champions and with the way they are playing, that’s looking to be a real possibility. The Pacers are finding their stride after a 10-5 December that helped propel them into first place in the Central Division. This four game stretch for the Pacers that I thought was key to the season started out rough in Boston, but came back around with a good win against Milwaukee here at home. Second game of a four game home stand for the Pacers will hopefully be a win tonight.
But what needs to happen for the Pacers to beat the Heat? Paul George needs to come ready to play. I would love to see the type of game he had against Chicago, and put up over 30 points to give the Pacers a real shot at winning. David West needs to be better than he has been in the past few games as well. He’s not shot the ball as well, so hopefully tonight can be a return to form.
The defense needs to continue to be strong for the Pacers. Slowing down James or Wade is key to this game. Make some other guys beat you. With James playing at the MVP level, I would possibly concentrate on slowing down Wade more. He’s not looking as good as he’s been, and the Pacers did frustrate him in last year’s playoffs for a game or two. That needs to happen tonight.
It comes down to the starters as well. George Hill needs to be a strong point guard, and really lead the team. Roy Hibbert needs to be a presence in the post, and hit big time shots. If the Pacers can get him started, I would expect good things to happen. I want Lance Stephenson to step it up on the defensive side of the ball and bring his energy to that. This is going to be quite the game if the Pacers can bring their A game. They’ve been playing much better than the beginning of the season, so I believe they can hold their own with the Heat. But if they get down early, I’m afraid this could look like an ugly loss. It’s just a regular season meeting, but it’s a meeting that could go a long way if the Pacers can get the win this evening.