8:00 PM ET, March 26, 2014
Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN
MIAMI (AP) -- Heat forward Chris Bosh has a confession: Games at this time of year simply mean more to him than games in December.
Not exactly shocking, of course.
But when so much hubbub surrounded the last game between Miami and Indiana way back on Dec. 18, Bosh wasn't necessarily buying into the supposed significance. After all, he figured, the season was basically only one-third over at that point.
The Heat and Pacers finally play again on Wednesday. And this time, Bosh knows the buzz is real.
"I know everybody's trying to make the games important back in December," Bosh said. "Well, now they're important."
The Eastern Conference race won't be decided on Wednesday night, but the pendulum is either going to swing toward Indiana moving considerably closer to the No. 1 seed or back toward the Heat and a chaotic, potentially down-to-the-wire finish. If the Pacers -- who have been alone atop the East standings since Nov. 4 -- win, they would move three games clear of Miami in the East race. If the Heat prevail, the teams will be tied in the loss column.
And given that these teams don't like each other, plus have faced each other in extremely hard-fought series in each of the past two postseasons, this probably won't seem like just another regular-season game.
"Everybody's getting what they want," Bosh said.
Neither team is exactly rolling into this matchup. Both teams have lost seven of their last 12 games, meaning the Heat have missed plenty of chances to grab the No. 1 spot, and the Pacers have missed plenty of chances to wrap up home-court throughout the East playoffs.
"We're just not clicking," Pacers center Roy Hibbert said after his team lost at Chicago on Monday night. "And we should be clicking."
The Heat beat Portland on Monday -- squandering a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter before doing so -- but that snapped a highly befuddling streak of missed Miami opportunities.
Before Monday, the Pacers had lost six games in March. And every time, the Heat either lost on the same night or in their next game, meaning a half-dozen chances to tighten up the East race were squandered.
"As many chances as we had, we kept playing with it, we were struggling, they were struggling, we had our chances," Bosh said. "We still have our chance with two showdowns with them."
True, Wednesday's isn't even the last Heat-Pacers meeting of this regular season. The teams square off in Miami on April 11.
This, though, might be the one that ultimately decides the East. If Miami falls three games out now -- the Pacers will have only 10 games left after Wednesday -- that could get the Heat to start thinking about how to rest certain players before the postseason begins. With Dwyane Wade in and out of the lineup often this season, Miami has used 18 starting lineups; the Pacers have used only three.
Wade hopes to play Wednesday. The Heat said he sat out Monday with an ankle issue; Wade clarified on Tuesday that it's actually a sore Achilles' tendon, but he was able to practice before the team flew to Indianapolis.
He participated in Wednesday morning's shootaround, then iced his knees.
Miami likely won't have Ray Allen, however. Allen did not attend Wednesday morning's shootaround, and coach Erik Spoelstra plans to spend the afternoon "thinking about" how to divvy up time with the second unit if Allen does not play.
If the Heat can close the gap in the standings, that could be a springboard for the two-time defending champions, who face a slew of sub-.500 teams in the next couple weeks.
"It's coming down to a photo finish," Bosh said. "We have a unique opportunity. No matter what's happened this whole season, we're within striking distance. It's here and it'll be a great playoff atmosphere. I can't wait."
Last 5 Games
Team Stat Leaders
LeBron went 2-2 from the field in the 4th quarter on Monday, totaling 6 points in a win over the Trail Blazers. But since scoring a career-high 61 points against Charlotte on March 3rd, James has shot just 38.2 percent in the 4th quarter.[+]
LeBron James FG pct By Quarter - Following 61-Point Game on March 3rd
Since Evan Turner's first game with the Pacers (Feb. 25th), Indiana has been outscored by 5.4 points per 48 minutes with him on the court while its outscored teams by 3.5 points with him off the court. The defense is clearly going through an adjustment period as the Pacers are allowing 7.1 more points per 48 minutes with Turner on the floor.[+]
Pacers With Evan Turner On/Off Court - Since Turner's Debut Feb. 25th
In Game 7 of the Conference Finals, the home team is 12-2 in the past 30 years and is 16-6 all-time. HOWEVER... The home team's win percentage in the Conference Finals is lower than in all rounds before the Conference Finals, AND lower than in the NBA Finals. So, it will matter less in the Eastern Conference Finals than in every other round.[+]
Home Team Win Pct in Game 7 - NBA Postseason History
From Elias: The Pacers have been tied or have held sole possession of 1st place in the Eastern Conference all season. The last 2 teams to go wire-to-wire atop a Conference were the 2007-08 Celtics and 2008-09 Lakers. Both of those teams went on to win the NBA title.
Indiana is holding opponents to a league-low 52.9 percent shooting in the restricted area. The Heat, meanwhile, shoot a league-best 68.4 percent from that range, a number that is driven up by LeBron James, who shoots a league-leading 78.7 percent in that area. Just how important is it for the Pacers to keep LeBron away from the basket? Since scoring a career-high 61-points against Charlotte on March 3rd, James is just 13-50 (26.0 percent) on field goal attempts outside the restricted area. He's 23-35 (65.7 percent) in the restricted area during that span.
Miami is currently in 2nd-place in the Eastern Conference, just 1 game back of Indiana in the loss column for the top spot. The Pacers have been adamant they want home-court advantage this postseason after losing Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals in Miami last year. Home teams are 91-23 all-time in Game 7s (.798 win pct) and the Heat are just 1-5 in road games against the Pacers dating back to the start of last season (including playoffs).[+]
Miami Heat - vs Pacers By Location Last 2 Seasons
Paul George is averaging just 18.9 points on 37.7 percent shooting in March after entering the month averaging 22.6 points on 44.0 percent from the field. Could George be wearing down? According to NBA.com player-tracking data, George has traveled 180.2 miles this season, 4th most by any player.[+]
The Heat won the last meeting between these teams in South Beach on December 18th, 97-94. In the 17 minutes that LeBron was on the court with Hibbert on the bench, LeBron took advantage - totaling 18 points while getting to the line 7 times. In the 19 minutes James and Hibbert were on the floor together, James was limited to just 6 points and failed to get to the charity stripe.[+]
LeBron James scored 14 points on drives Wednesday, his most against the Pacers the past two seasons (including playoffs). Despite the success, once James committed the flagrant foul on Roy Hibbert, he was unable to finish.[+]
LeBron outscored the Heat's other starters by 8 against the Pacers, and nearly outscored the rest of his entire team by himself. He also outscored Wade and Bosh by 15.[+]
Heat Wednesday vs Pacers
This is LeBron's first 30-point game against the Pacers (regular season) since January 4th, 2012...he had gone 8 straight against them scoring under 30. According to Elias it was 1 game shy of James' longest such streak against any NBA team.
The Heat and Pacers enter tomorrow night's matchup with identical 7-7 records in March. Both teams have four games remaining in the month (including Wednesday night) and if they have aspirations of winning an NBA title this season, it would benefit them to finish over .500 in March. Since 1970, only FOUR NBA teams have finished March with a record of .500 or below and gone on to win the title that season: the 1969-70 Knicks, 1972-73 Knicks, 1976-77 Trail Blazers and 1994-95 Rockets.[+]
Worst March W-L Since 1970 - Among Teams to Win NBA Title That Season
LeBron James 2-for-5 in the 4th quarter Wednesday night and is only shooting 33.3 percent in the 4th quarter against the Pacers this season. One reason why? He's not as effective in the paint as in the first three quarters.[+]
LeBron James By Quarter vs Pacers - This Season
These teams are almost dead even the past 2 seasons...[+]
Heat and Pacers Head-to-Head - Past 2 Seasons Including Playoffs
David West just hit his 4th 3-pointer of the season to extend the Pacers lead to 84-80. He entered the shot 3-12 on 3s this season, and 43-169 in his career (25%).
Paul George scored 11 of his 23 points when guarded by LeBron James Wednesday. George struggled against James in their first two meetings, scoring 11 points in the two games combined.[+]
People may talk about the decision to have Chris Bosh take the final shot instead of LeBron James, but he might have been the best choice, considering his performance in such situations since he and LeBron joined the Heat. These numbers are ENTERING the game, so before the final play was drawn up.[+]
With 13 points, tonight is Roy Hibbert's 5th-highest scoring game since the All-Star Break (we're only through the 1st quarter)
The Pacers shut down the paint for the Heat in the second half Wednesday, holding the Heat to just 10 points in the paint. LeBron James had 10 paint points in the first half alone (and only 4 in the second half).[+]
Heat Shooting Inside the Paint
Roy Hibbert's 13 first-quarter points already surpass his scoring average in 19 games since the break (9.3 PPG).
ESPN Stats & Information