Although the Heat have played two of their last three games against the Pacers, they will open a best of seven series against Indiana on Tuesday. The Pacers finished the regular season as the 4th seed in the East, while Miami was one game back and is the 5th seed.
The Pacers and Heat have a bit of a history. They’ve met in the Playoffs four times. First, in 2004 during Wade’s rookie season. Indiana beat the Heat in 6 games in the second round. Then for three consecutive seasons (2012, 2013, 2014) they faced each other with Miami winning each of those series. And they were intense.
Now, we get the Bubble version of Heat-Pacers. And we wanted to provide you with everything you need to know. So let’s go!
Game 1: Tuesday (8/18), 4PM — TNT
Game 2: Thursday (8/20), 1 PM — ESPN
Game 3: Saturday (8/22), 3:30 PM — TNT
Game 4: Monday (8/24), 6:30 PM — TNT
*Game 5: Wednesday (8/26)
*Game 6: Friday (8/28)
*Game 7: Sunday (8/30)
That will probably be focused on Jimmy Butler and TJ Warren.
Jimmy is the Heat’s most important player. That doesn’t mean he will be the most influential player, but he is the most important. He brings it all together, and when the Heat need the extra push, he can provide it on his own.
The beef with TJ Warren is apparently dead, but that won’t stop these two from guarding each other...and over the course of a tough and physical series it’s going to get chippy. Count on it. But how the Heat and Pacers try to limit the strengths of these two players will be important. Warren has expanded his game in the Bubble (mostly by shooting from distance) and has taken over primary responsibilities from Victor Oladipo. Butler gets to the foul line often and creates matchup problems. If either of these players gets it going, they make their team so much better.
How the Heat dominate
By making their three-point shots. Miami is so lethal with Duncan Robinson, Tyler Herro, and Jae Crowder. And when Kelly Olynyk, Kendrick Nunn, Goran Dragic and Andre Iguodala are making them, they are even better. When the Heat shoot the ball from deep well, they are really hard to beat...because it creates so much more room for Jimmy and Bam Adebayo to work on the inside.
When the Heat struggle from deep, they become average and are susceptible to anything. The Heat will dominate this series if they shoot well from beyond the arc.
How the Pacers dominate
That’s going to happen if Victor Oladipo figures his stuff out. Let’s be real — the Heat are a bad matchup for the Pacers, especially without Domantas Sabonis in the lineup for them. But if Oladipo is able to regain any form that he has had in the past then the Pacers become dangerous to Miami. TJ Warren will be better than the 12 points effort last week, and Oladipo has traditionally shined in these moments. So any movement around him being closer to the Vic of past makes Indiana better — but not dominate.
They “could” dominate if Myles Turner outplays Bam Adebayo. Turner has some playoff experience, Bam has just a little. If Turner finds a way to be better than what he has against Miami so far, then they could dominate.
It’s unfortunate because of his injury status, but I really think the X-Factor in this series could be Derrick Jones Jr. His versatility and length will really bother Indiana. The Pacers, although a very good team, are not a super athletic team. Jones Jr. can really disrupt their pick and roll game because the switching would be less dynamic.
On top of that, if and when the Heat decide to go zone, DJJ has been one of the most lethal people at the top of the zone for Miami and makes things a disaster for opponents. DJJ has shown some abilities to score the easy or clean-up buckets against the Pacers.
If he is able to play and have a solid role in Miami’s deep lineup, he could be the X-Factor in this series.
Series Prediction from HHH Writers
Surya Fernandez: Heat in 6
Brandon DiPerno: Heat in 5
Matt Pineda: Heat in 5
Diego Quezada: Heat in 5
*Every single one of the 17 ESPN experts they asked picked the Heat to win this series.
We hope you have enjoyed reading this preview of the Heat and Pacers series. Stay tuned with us for all the previews and recaps of each game.