Before Monday night, the Heat held the 2nd seed in the East (50-22), while the Pacers held the first seed (52-22). On Monday night the Miami Heat beat the Toronto Raptors (93-83) and later that evening the Indiana Pacers lost to the San Antonio Spurs (103-77). What this ultimately means for these teams depends on how well they can perform between today and the rest of the season. However, what it definitely means is that the odds are in favor of a showdown taking place on Miami’s stage when the Heat play the Pacers on Friday, April 11 at 7:30 P.M. EST.
The upcoming game is one of the most exciting match ups that the NBA has seen in a while for more than just the dramatic effect that the end of the season has on the fans. For the Pacers, it means the difference between winning the Eastern conference championship and having a chance to play a few rounds of the NBA’s heavyweight title fight being sent home early with the bitter taste of defeat to lingering on their palate for a whole year. The Pacer’s last season was one that ended at the hands of the Heat in game seven. Yet the moral of the story for Indiana’s coaching staff and players was not that they lost game seven, it was that they lost because that game was played in Miami. Indy Coach Frank Vogel said, “When we lost Game 7. In the locker room, we decided. We just know. We know what the odds are. Look at the odds over history of what Game 7s look like, I think it’s 80 percent the home team wins. We just know that can be important.”
Do not be mislead either, the Heat have had their fair shares of ups and downs this season. It is been mostly about on court chemistry issues with particular players as they have very little continuity together and do not usually have the opportunity to build on it either. Though it seems that no matter how “bad” things can get in Miami, Indiana can not get their act together either. As recently as their last loss to the Spurs, George Hill and Lance Stephenson had to be separated from each other, while Roy Hibbert continued to publicly blame his teammates selfishness for their woes of late. Despite the theory that these two teams are stacked with talent unequaled in the rest of the NBA they should be head and shoulders above them, in practice it turns out that the result is something much messier than that.
The games have progressively gotten more physical and hostile, too. The last game these teams played against each other was filled with chest to chest confrontations, hard fouls (some flagrant) and Lance Stephenson was eventually ejected in the fourth quarter for taunting Dwyane Wade. At any rate, these teams are easily the best two in the East and possibly in the entire association. They hardly need any extra drama, hype or salt in their wounds to make next Friday night’s showdown in Miami one that will not only have Heat and Pacers fans watching but the entire basketball world.
Commentary by Ian Sallee