The Heat have done enough to earn an elimination game on their home court tonight. After splitting the first two games in Indiana, and protecting home court so far, the Heat can make void the Pacers hope for a Game 7 on their court with a win tonight.
And with a win tonight, the Heat would make four straight Finals appearances, the first time since the mid 1980's Celtics. With a loss, the Heat would be staring down an elimination game on the road, something they haven't done since 2012 against the Boston Celtics in Game 6.
Chris Andersen (thigh) did not participate in this morning's team shootaround and is listed as a game-time decision for tonight's Game 6.
LeBron James played only 23 minutes in Game 5, and scored just 7 points, both career postseason lows. The interesting thing about it is that it wasn't necessarily anything the Pacers did differently to hamper LeBron's effectiveness, it was simply his foul trouble that cramped him from ever getting in a rhythm. By the time he played extended minutes in the fourth, he had 5 fouls and couldn't be overly aggressive. Game 5 was definitely an outlier game, and expect a much different approach for tonight.
Spo on LeBron: "He's well-rested. He's eager to play tonight."
Spolestra said again this morning that the key for tonight's game is for the Heat to impose its style of play on the Pacers. That means the Heat need to get in the open court, protect the ball, and get to the free throw line more than eight times. Despite the Pacers imposed style of play in Game 5, the Heat still had a chance to win the game.
The Heat have moved on form Game 5, but the media has not. Despite a stellar performance by All-Star Paul George, much of the attention was on Lance Stephenson for his antics in Game 5. Stephenson blew in LeBron's ear, joined a Spoelstra/Norris Cole huddle, and was sticking his tongue on LeBron to name a few. Pacers have begun to play it off as Lance being Lance, at least while they win. I'm sure Game 6 will have its own pieces.
"I'm not talking about Lance Stephenson the rest of the playoffs." -- Chris Bosh
We already know of some of the works (PHOTO) Heat fans have in the making for Lance heading into Game 6. And I'm sure there will be plenty more.
Game 6 will provide different challenges, but the Heat should be confident in their approach. Miami is 9-0 since James came to Miami in close-out games at home. That doesn't mean the Pacers will back down, they are 3-0 so far this season in elimination games of their own.
Scott Foster will be the lead official for tonight's game, along with Jason Philipps, and Sean Corbin.
The Heat host the Pacers for Game 6 tonight, 8:30 PM EST on ESPN.