These two teams don't like each other, but the Pacers are the only ones who have shown it in the two meetings between Miami and Indiana this season. After a listless 87-77 loss in the same building three weeks ago, Indiana thoroughly dominated the Heat in every facet of the game Friday en route to a 102-89 win.
The Pacers put the game away in the third quarter, extending their 10-point halftime lead to 17 on the strength of David West's 12 third-quarter points. Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra left Udonis Haslem in to guard West until late in the third, and West had already lit the Heat up for 28 points by then. West scored 16 points in the first half on 6-for-7 shooting and finished with 30 points (12-for-15), 7 rebounds and 5 assists.
Spoelstra said of West, "He came in with a very aggressive mindset, you could see it early on. Then in the post, he was scoring over the top."
Miami's small-ball strategy backfired, as it often does when Shane Battier is missing shots. Battier was 3-for-8 from three-point territory, but two of those came late in the game after the Pacers had built a huge lead taking advantage of Battier and Haslem's lack of size. Don't be surprised if LeBron draws the assignment of guarding West should these teams meet in the playoffs. Miami's true frontcourt players (save for Chris Andersen) are a bad matchup.
I would encourage you, the reader, to get neither too high nor too low after any of these regular season games. For the Heat, they are generally meaningless. Sometimes it shows in their effort (or lack thereof), but staying healthy until the playoffs is all that matters to this team. It's a frustrating fact of life on nights like tonight, but there's no sense in fretting over anything that happens on Feb. 1.
On a related note, hitting the mute button when Jon Barry voices his opinions on the Heat is a heads-up play I would advise all of you to make when we get stuck having to listen to him on a national telecast.
As we've seen in the past with the Bulls, regular season success against Miami doesn't necessarily translate to the postseason, where the Heat ramp up their intensity and James, Wade and Bosh log heavier minutes.
Still, Spoelstra acknowledged that the Pacers are a legitimate threat to the Heat in the Eastern Conference. Miami will try to avoid a season sweep at the hands of the Pacers when Indiana visits the AAA March 10.
"They beat us on both ends of the court fair and square," said Spoelstra. "Clearly we have to get better against them. But really on both ends of the court they just played more consistently, with more force...and that's the score you got.
"We'll own it. We have to get better against them. We have to bring more and play better on both ends of the court. That's our hope and that's what I think will happen. They've outclassed us in both games."