The Miami Heat haven't talked much about the Indiana Pacers and catching them, but the media sure does, and I'm sure you check the standings as well. So even amid the Heat's two game slump, the Pacers have managed to lose three straight.
But they aren't just losses. One was at home to the Warriors, an understandable defeat. The other two - a 22 point loss to the Bobcats and a 26 point loss to the Rockets. There are a couple things going here for the reasoning behind it and things the Heat can learn from this stretch from the Pacers.
The first thing is clear and has been true all season: the Pacers don't score very much. They can, and are capable of it, but on the norm, they don't. The Pacers haven't topped 100 in any of those games, while they have let their opponent twice and gave up 98 to the Warriors (which is probably a success). Indiana has been known as a defensive team, the top defensive team, but their defense can't always be successful in the NBA with the talent that is out there night to night. And their offense isn't over the top talented enough to withstand an offense that is clicking. Most nights the Pacers do just fine, but it catches up to them.
Paul George has fallen off his superstar clip lately. George was lighting it up at the beginning of the season, but has all but effectively removed himself from any MVP cling. George is just being inefficient at this point in the season and it is costing the Pacers. He shot 8-23 (34%) against the Warriors, he was 0-9 (0%) and 2 points worth against those stingy Bobcats who don't give up big games to stars, and he was 5-12 (41%) for 13 points against the Rockets. Paul George is still a terrific player, but he has many lapses from being a consistent superstar player in this league.
The Pacers are learning to incorporate Evan Turner in the offense who has had some good games scoring since in Indiana, and he has also been shut out. They haven't yet played Andrew Bynum, so it is fair to say the Pacers aren't a finished product, but we just aren't sure what that product will be and how effective they will become.
The Pacers are 7-6 in their last 13 games and aren't trending in the right direction with 20 games left in the season. The Heat are again tied with the Pacers in the loss column but have played 3 few games than them. Miami hasn't made any claim towards the number one seed as the Pacers have, but it seems the last leg of the regular season will have some value.
Miami would be wise to learn what the Bobcats and Rockets did to Indiana with Al Jefferson and Dwight Howard. The Heat are already good at using Bosh to pull Hibbert out of the lane, but Jefferson and Dwight had different types of success against Indiana. Likewise, especially in Houston, the Heat would be wise to see how they worked the Pacers in the 3-5 pick-and-roll. Chandler Parsons was very successful with Dwight Howard, and Miami can learn from this if they plan to use Greg Oden more in the playoffs, even for a small stretch.
If you tune into any Pacers games you will see that they are a dangerous team. They are stingy on defense, and run a decent offense. It just comes down to making shots and how wild Lance Stephenson decides to be that night. The Heat don't need to focus on the Pacers yet, they'll have two series before they see them, but the Heat have a real shot here to win the first seed in the East, with an easier schedule down the stretch.
The Heat and Pacers next play in Indiana on March 26.
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