The Miami Heat, which went 0-3 against the Indiana Pacers last season, will get another crack at the club on Friday night.
Miami, which has yet to play Indiana this season, will host the Pacers, and that should give the Heat a distinct advantage. Miami is 13-1 at home this season. Indiana is 7-7 on the road.
The Pacers are enjoying a hot stretch and have won six of their past seven games, including a 120-115 overtime victory over the reigning NBA champion Toronto Raptors on Monday night.
“We’re going to be relentless on both ends for 48 minutes,” Pacers wing T.J. Warren said of his team’s mantra. “(The win over Toronto) shows our toughness.”
The Pacers are playing short-handed in the backcourt as Malcolm Brogdon sat out Monday’s game due to a strained right hamstring and Victor Oladipo (ruptured right quad tendon) is expected to miss at least one more month before making his season debut. Brogdon leads Indiana in scoring (18.3) and assists (7.6). Oladipo averaged 23.1 points in 2017-2018 and 18.1 points last season before getting injured.
With that duo out, Indiana turns to point guard T.J. McConnell, who is second on the team in assists (5.0) and shooting guard Jeremy Lamb (13.9 points). In addition, the Holiday brothers — guards Aaron and Justin — combine to average 17.7 points.
Even so, Indiana may struggle to match up with Miami’s starting backcourt of 6-3 rookie Kendrick Nunn (16.2 scoring average) and 6-8, 230-pound veteran Jimmy Butler (20.4 points).
They are Miami’s top two scorers, and Butler — who can play guard or forward — also leads Miami in assists (6.6) and steals (2.1).
“Any time you can add a four-time All-Star to your roster, you make that move,” Heat team president Pat Riley said after acquiring Butler this past summer. “His tenacity, professionalism and defensive disposition will improve our roster immediately.”
Riley was right about that, and the Heat backcourt is also deep as backup point guard Goran Dragic — a former All-Star — is averaging 16.0 points and 5.0 assists. In addition, first-round pick Tyler Herro — a 6-5 shooting guard — is averaging 14.0 points.
Herro earned praise from Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell on Monday after Miami beat his team 107-104.
“He kicked my (butt) on three straight possessions,” Mitchell said. “It’s on me.”
As for the big men in the Heat-Pacers matchup, the list starts with Miami’s 6-10, 255-pound Bam Adebayo and Indiana’s 6-11, 240-pound Domantas Sabonis, both of whom are former first-round picks.
Adebayo, 22, is averaging 15.7 points, 10.6 rebounds and 4.6 assists. Sabonis, 23, is averaging 17.8 points and 13.5 rebounds.
It’s a career year for both of them.
An X-factor for the Heat is 6-8 small forward Duncan Robinson, who leads the team in 3-point attempts. He is converting on 44.8 percent of his three-point shots, and he is capable of sinking opponents.
Indiana’s X-factor could be Myles Turner … or Doug McDermott or Warren. Turner, a 6-11, 250-pound center, led the NBA last season with 2.7 blocks per game (199 in 74 contests). This season, he is averaging 12.1 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks.
McDermott, a 6-8 small forward, is a career 41.1-percent three-point shooter. This season, he is making 46 percent from deep while averaging 9.6 points.
Warren is third on the team in scoring (17.7).
–Field Level Media