Miami Heat, Pacers to Play Game of Waning Significance


The Miami Heat (18-24) and Indiana Pacers (15-29) will meet on Friday night, no longer the marquee machup that it had been in years past. Each team is in the midst of a losing streak – Miami has dropped two straight, while Indiana’s stuck at six losses – and fighting just to make the postseason.

Moreover, it would seem that frustration is starting to boil over for Dwyane Wade, he of the North Carolinian obscene gesture, and Chris Bosh. While Wade was the delivering the one-finger salute to Hornets fans, Bosh explained his feelings to the Sun-Sentinel’s Ira Winderman:

"“I’m tired of it,” Bosh said, when asked if there was anything to take away from the game. “You can always take something from everything, but at the end of the day, we lost. That’s what it is. All of these moral victories, we can put that on the shelf. Either you win the game or you lose the game. We had our chances.”"

In truth, Miami did have a built-in excuse for the 78-76 loss to Charlotte on Wednesday night. Hassan Whiteside (ankle) and Luol Deng (illness) both missed the game and are currently listed as day-to-day, meaning they might not be available for tonight’s game.

But the Heat blew an opportunity to keep climbing up the standings and separate themselves from an ever-growing field of sub-.500 teams looking to make the Eastern Conference playoffs.

The Pacers are among that group.

Even with losses continuing to pile up, Indiana is just four games below the Heat in the standings – life in the Eastern Conference! – and looking to make up some ground in Miami.

The Pacers’ Luis Scola explained the team’s losing streak and the tough challenge ahead (as per Indiana’s official website):

"“It’s been tough. We can’t seem to find a rhythm. We don’t seem to find a way to play the right way, and we don’t seem to get any wins. We have a good opportunity to make the playoffs, but we have some good teams ahead of us right now. If we continue to lose games it’s going to be very tough.”"

To their credit, Indiana has managed to keep working past their injury issues. George Hill and David West have missed significant time, while Paul George is expected to sit out the entire season. West leads the team at 12.6 points per game, but that number is an indicator of many of the Pacers’ problems. It’s a low average to be sure, but he’s also one of nine players with double-digit scoring averages. The problem is that this team can’t get everyone to consistently score on the same night.

Miami’s own scoring issues were evident on Wednesday when Bosh and Wade both struggled from the field (combining for just 15-of-41 shooting). While Deng has been inconsistent, he’s a valued third-option on offense. However, the team’s increasing dependence on Whiteside is an alarming trend. They looked out of sorts without their new low-post threat, unable to run the pick-and-roll that has allowed Whiteside to shine. If he’s out of the lineup tonight, who will take up the scoring load?

Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra will continue to roll out players in the hopes that they’ll contribute just enough to pull out a victory. And in this season of lowered expectations – highlighted by tonight’s matchup of former title contenders – every victory counts.

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