The biggest battle for first place in the Eastern Conference comes tonight. With the Pacers up 2-1 in the season series over the Heat, Indiana heads to Miami to try to give themselves pole position for the one seed.
Of course, there are a few games left to play for both teams, but since one of those games for Indiana is against Oklahoma City, winning tonight is critical to securing home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.
One thing that will make that easier: Dwyane Wade won’t play.
The three-time champion guard has been nursing a hamstring injury for some time, and despite the games stakes, will miss his 10th straight game, said head coach Erik Spoelstra today at shootaround (according to NBA.com).
Of course, the Pacers may be tempted to get some rest as well. Coach Frank Vogel sat all five of his starters against the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday, an energy-saving gambit that paid off as Chris Copeland’s last-second game winner gave the Pacers the win — and a half game lead over Miami for first place.
Presume all five of those guys suit up tonight. Indiana needs to get back on track for the playoffs and while nobody on the team publicly cares much about the one seed anymore (they just want to fix their scoring problems), winning tonight would increase their odds to beat Miami if the two meet again in the Eastern Conference Finals.