Miami Sports Day

NBA: Heat-Pacers Matchup Has Playoff Implications

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Pacers will host the Miami Heat on Sunday night in a game with definite playoff implications. Currently the No. 6-seed in the Eastern Conference, the Pacers (33-32) are hoping to hold off a Miami

Heat team that has won 21 of their last 25 games after their abysmal start to the season.

The Heat have won both matchups against the Pacers this season, including a 113-95 win in Miami last month. Paul George got ejected from that game in the third quarter, and Hassan Whiteside led the Heat with 22 points and 17 rebounds.

Miami’s hot streak will be put to the test in a building they haven’t played well in. The Pacers have defeated Miami in nine straight regular-season games in Indianapolis. Miami’s last win in Indy was in February of 2012. The Pacers have been tough at Bankers Life Fieldhouse this season as well, going 22-10 on their home court.

The Pacers are in the midst of several games against teams that are right below them in the standings. They defeated Detroit last week, but fell to Milwaukee on Friday night by a final score of 99-85.

“We had great looks,” Paul George told the Indianapolis Star. “Sometimes the game goes like that where you miss shots. I thought we moved the ball well enough. We just didn’t make shots down the stretch.”

Teammate Jeff Teague added: “Myself included, we all need to get out and run more,” Teague said. “I think it makes our offense flow a little bit better.”

Miami (32-34) has pulled within a half game of the 8th seed in the East, and sit just a game and a half behind the Pacers for sixth. They defeated the Raptors 104-89 on Saturday night. Dion Waiters led the Heat with 20 points, and six Miami players scored in double-figures.

“We’re just trying to build habits to our game, more consistently every single night,” Coach Erik Spoelstra said. “I was pleased with the effort.”

Goran Dragic took an elbow to the right eye on Saturday night and left the game in the third quarter. Dragic will travel to Indiana and has intentions of playing on Sunday.

“The plan is for him to travel,” Spoelstra said. “We’ll see how it goes. We’ll be smart about it.”

The Pacers and Heat are both in the top 10 in the NBA in 3-point shooting, both making around 37 percent from behind the arc. The battle from three could be the deciding factor in this matchup.

The battle between Myles Turner and Hassan Whiteside will also be a huge key. Turner and Whiteside are third and fourth, respectively, in the NBA in blocked shots.

This will be the final game between these two teams this season. As the season begins to wind down, the head to head matchups between playoff hopefuls could be the deciding factor on who goes home, and who plays on.

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