The Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat developed a nice little rivalry through the mid-2010’s, but the next generation of both teams could move that simmering rivalry to a full boil in the bubble at Disney World.
During the NBA’s season reboot, the Pacers and Heat will play two of their eight seeding games against each other, with heavy implications on the standings. As they sit today, the teams would face off in a first round series.
With Jimmy Butler taking the role of lead antagonist for Miami, which led to flaring tempers with TJ Warren in the last meeting, there should be plenty of juice when they meet again on the court in an empty gym.
This beef favors the Pacers since Butler is the lead dog for the Heat, while Warren, is the Pacers third and at times fourth option despite his sensational season. For that reason, Paul Pierce recently shook off the smoldering beef.
Going into Orlando, the @Pacers-@MiamiHEAT beef is real, and its spectacular. Both teams are already tweeting at each other and in case you don't remember what Jimmy Butler said the last time he and TJ Warren met, well...watch: pic.twitter.com/bgPAxWBnK1— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) July 1, 2020
Also, so much has changed since the two tangled back on Jan. 8 that it’s highly unlikely they’d pick up where they left off. Simple time plus complex health and social issues in the world alters everyone’s perspective. But as the games and competition continues, that feud remains buried under the surface which keeps it something we should watch.
Sadly, the electric atmosphere in both team’s home arenas has always made the big games between the two a blast to watch. That will be missed dearly in the bubble games in Orlando. Still, both teams are at similar points in their development as being a bit ahead of schedule with young players making big contributions. The health of Victor Oladipo could help level out the star advantage Miami has with Butler, but that may not be an option to finish this season.
In fact, with this second act, the rivalry could approach the 90’s Pacers-Knicks rivalry which was just one generation of teams, but delivered enough highlights and shared pain and suffering to lead to an exceptional 30 for 30 by Dan Klores.
With the Heat, the Pacers have taken all of the suffering since 2012 when LeBron and DWade teamed up to become the new nemesis of the Blue and Gold. But don’t give me this hammer and nail talk, just because the Pacers didn’t clinch a series. For three years, those teams battled in the playoffs with two six-game and one seven-game series, twice in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Regardless of outcome, far more games were battles down the stretch that were must see in person or on TV. With the star power, and in DWade’s case, Hall of Fame whining ability, the Pacers were often on the short end of critical whistles. It took a couple of years, but Roy Hibbert stymieing many a Heat drives at the rim with defensive verticality, eventually led to changing how the rule was called and eventually ending Big Roy’s career.
But one of those lane blocking plays delivered my favorite highlight from the three playoff series. It was in the fourth quarter of Game 6, 2013 at the Fieldhouse when LeBron took flight into Hibbert trying to draw a foul. The play was a last gasp effort by LeBron to spark his team as they were down 11 with under five minutes to play.
The Fieldhouse was madness.
It felt like everyone in the place was up and inching forward, anticipating the knock out blow that would secure a Game 6 win and send the series back to Miami for Game 7. Then this happened.
When LeBron sprinted back to the other end of the court, drawing a technical in the process, the Fieldhouse went to the greatest state of delirium I have ever witnessed.
The Pacers got a critical call and with it the win. What a moment!
Hopefully, there are many more entertaining moments in the years to come between the Pacers and Heat as they constantly battle in the Eastern Conference one possession at a time.
There are plenty of other incredible moments from those mid-2010 playoff series with Miami. What was you favorite moment?