Preview: Heat hope to close out Pacers in Game 6 of Eastern Conference Finals

USA TODAY Sports

If the Heat hope to make it to their third consecutive NBA Finals, they will have to do it on the road and without one of their most consistent pieces in Chris Andersen.

It's been nearly five months since the Miami Heat lost consecutive basketball games. That's exactly what the Indiana Pacers will have to do if they want to stop the Heat from reaching their third consecutive NBA Finals.

Game 6 will be in Indiana where the Pacers have taken three out of four against the Heat this season. Last season, the Heat went to Bankers Life Fieldhouse and closed out the Pacers in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. They had to do that without Udonis Haslem, and this year will have to do it without the Birdman, Chris Andersen.

Andersen was suspended by the NBA on Friday after they upgraded his FL-1 foul to a FL-2 foul. Andersen gave an unnecessary body shot at Tyler Hansbrough, and then gave him a two hand shove to the chest. Hansbrough, again, is in the middle of a suspension for the Miami Heat.

The Heat are not at full strength. Even without Birdman, Dwyane Wade is clearly not himself, Chris Bosh has a tweaked ankle, and Mario Chalmers is continually getting beaten up by David West.

If Miami wants to keep this from going to a Game 7, they'll need Joel Anthony to step up and fill Andersen's minutes. They may also need better play from the struggling Shane Battier. Battier played a minuscule 8 minutes in Game 5, his lowest minute output since joining the Heat. Battier has not only struggled with his shot from distance, but he also hasn't been able to stop David West from scoring or rebounding.

The Pacers will hosting another Gold Swagger night with their last home game of the series, and maybe their playoffs. Miami will need to play one of their better games to get out of Indiana with a victory.

One good sign: the Heat still have LeBron James on their team. Maybe Dwyane Wade will have his best game yet.

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