Pacers Heat Game 6 Preview

It’s interesting how quickly things can change in a playoff series. With a 94-75 win last Thursday, the Pacers seized a 2-1 lead in the series and we all started talking about Miami not being able to get it done. Chris Bosh was out, Dwayne Wade was hurting and the Pacers looked to be too much for the Heat.

Not anymore …

The Miami Heat and the Indiana Pacers will square off tonight for game a pivotal game 6, one that has the Pacers on life-support. After a memorable game 5, mostly due to the amount of flagrant fouls we saw, the Pacers find themselves down 3-2 in the Eastern Conference Semi Finals.

After some off-court exchanges, back and forth taunting, and a flurry of technical fouls, the series finally resembled the ruggedness many of us are used to with playoff basketball. During game 5, we saw the refs hand out three flagrant 1 fouls; however, after review, the league upgraded all three to Flagrant 2. In addition, they suspended Udonis Haslem for 1 game and Dexter Pittman for 3 games. Tonight, Miami will play game 6 with a more than usual weak front-court. If you’re looking for more info on the suspensions, take a look at my previous post.

Although Pittman’s absence will be irrelevant, losing Haslem could be costly. He had a good game 4 and 5:  10 points and 6 rebounds in game 5, and contributed 14 points and 4 rebounds in game 4.

Roy Hibbert had a big game 3, but his production has been subdued in the last couple of games. They need another 19 & 18 type night from him. As the case is in most playoff games, rebounding is oh so very important. On paper, the Pacers have more size, but have been out-rebounded by the Heat this series. Through five games, West is shooting just above 40%. In the last games, both Indy losses, he’s 8-of-21. So basically, when West is shooting, he’s missing (more often than not). Also, when another Indy player is missing, Battier has done a fantastic job keeping West off the offensive boards. If Battier continues to make Miami’s smaller lineups viable enough for long enough that Frank Vogel is forced to use a smaller lineup too, then rebounding advantage continues to be on Miami’s side.

Indiana needs a better outing from Granger, West, and Hibbert. They must establish Hibbert down low in order to open up their perimeter shooting. On the defensive end, Indiana has to collapse in the paint, and prevent LeBron and Wade from attacking the basket on every play. Force guys like Chalmers, Battier, and Miller to hit the outside shot all game.

For the Heat, I’ll be watching how often they’re able to get out in the open court.  The Pacers have not been able to  keep up with Miami’s transition offense. Honestly, not sure if anyone in the league can keep up with them when LeBron and Wade have that much room to operate.  Secondary breaks always play a huge role the playoffs, mostly because transition defenses improve. The ball might get stopped initially, but in the scramble to get back it’s tough to account for that trailing shooter – see Ray Allen. In game five, Three of Battier’s four threes came in the secondary break.

Granger ending up sitting out the 4th quarter of game 5 due to a sprained ankle, but he needs to play through that tonight if they want to bring this series to a game 7. During Wednesday’s team practice, Granger watched in flip-flops and told media he was on pain-killers and anti-inflammatory medication.

Prediction: I’m a fan of this balanced Indy team, and I think they still have some fight left in them. The crowd at Bankers Life Fieldhouse is going to be pumped, and the Pacers should benefit from the Haslem suspension. To limit Miami’s production on fast breaks, Indiana needs to focus on limiting their turnovers. Pacers win 88-83.

Update: Behind Wade’s 17-25 shooting night (41 points), Heat win 105-93. Pretty much get a bye until the finals, where they will face OKC or SA.