While the Miami Heat raced through Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the Indiana Pacers sputtered, losing in lopsided fashion to the visiting Heat. The Pacers were a step (or two, maybe three) slow all night defensively, allowing over 30 points in three quarters. The Heat found separation for good on an 8-0 run halfway through the first, holding off a late quarter Pacers surge with eight points to end the quarter from Jimmy Butler.
Groundhog’s Day came early for the Pacers in the second quarter. On four separate occasions, they cut a once 11-point deficit to 4-5 points, but Miami responded each time with a timely three pointer to push the lead back to three possessions. By the time halftime came, the Pacers trailed 62-49, trailing in three pointers made 8-3.
Three more Heat triples in the third helped balloon the lead to 24 points at the halfway mark, when T.J. Warren and Butler began getting testy with each other, each drawing a technical. On the following play, Warren forced a turnover on a Butler offensive foul, but was ejected for clapping at Butler following the change of possession.
This woke up the crowd, helping the Pacers to back-to-back threes as a response, cutting the lead to 18 with over 5:30 minutes left in the quarter. With momentum on their side, Indiana promptly threw it away, fouling the Heat on shots five times to end the quarter, allowing Miami to an easy going 20-10 conclusion to the quarter, cementing the victory.
One thing the Pacers didn’t do tonight was make Miami uncomfortable. The Heat shot upwards of 57% for much of the night, going a steady 16-38 from three point range in the win. Indiana meanwhile didn’t eclipse 45% until the fourth quarter, hitting just nine threes. In transition, Miami also topped the Pacers 18-14.
Domantas Sabonis was a game time decision tonight, but didn’t appear to be hampered at all by injury, leading the Pacers with 27 points and 14 rebounds on 10-13 shooting. It was a big rebound performance for Sabonis, who struggled mightily in Miami, but unfortunately, it didn’t translate to team success.
Sabonis led all players on the glass in what was actually a positive night for the Pacers on the glass. They lost the rebounding battle 41-37, but held Miami to just three offensive rebounds. Unfortunately, the ones they did let up immediately translated into points for Miami, scoring seven off of those misses.
Justin Holiday and Jeremy Lamb made up a bulk of the three point shooting for the Pacers, each hitting three on 6-11 shooting. Beyond them, however, it proved difficult. The rest of the team was 3-16, including 0-4 from Doug McDermott, and 1-4 and 1-5 nights from Aaron Holiday and Myles Turner.
Edmond Sumner meanwhile had 13 points off the bench, scoring well when he wasn’t forcing things too much. T.J. McConnell had six points and five assists. While they both did well enough offensively, neither proved the spark they’ve shown they can be on the other end of the floor, which no doubt played a part in the loss.
After scoring 36 in a win over Charlotte, Warren was just 1-5 shooting tonight for three points in 23 minutes. A couple of tough calls against Butler may have pulled him out of the game before the ejection, but even if it didn’t, it proved a costly off-night for the wing, though only Sabonis shot above 50% among the starters.
Indiana outscored Miami 36-22 in the fourth to tighten up the score a bit, but make no mistake, this was a pretty sound beating. Miami took it to the Pacers in just about every area, the difference in shooting proving a pretty clear difference in the final. Though they probably should have won in Miami, the Pacers were able to fight to the end in that one by shooting very well from deep against an identical 16-38 night from the Heat.
In what could easily be a first round matchup, the three point defense will need to tighten up. With two more games against Miami in March and April, they’ll have that opportunity, hopefully with a full roster, following positive news regarding the returns of both Victor Oladipo and Malcolm Brogdon.
While Oladipo’s return won’t be until January 29 against the Chicago Bulls, Brogdon’s return may be as soon as Friday against the very same Bulls, this time up north. The Pacers, at just 3-6 in their last nine, will look to get back on track against a Chicago team that has also lost with regularity of late.