Miami Heat seek revenge against Indiana Pacers

Dec 11, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (13) drives to the basket against Miami Heat forward Luol Deng (9) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 11, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (13) drives to the basket against Miami Heat forward Luol Deng (9) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports /
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Preview of the Miami Heat’s game against the Indiana Pacers.

Pacers (19-14) @ Heat (20-13)
Where: American Airlines Arena Miami, Florida
When: Monday, January 4, 6:30 PM EST
Watch: NBA-TV, FS-SUN, NBA League Pass

So far this season, the Pacers have handled the Heat easily, winning each of the first two matchups. The Heat have tonight and one more matchup on February 22nd to even the season series. As weird as this may sound, this is as close to a must-win game for the Heat as possible can be in early January.

The Pacers enter tonight’s game just one game behind the Heat in the standings, but in a suddenly tough Eastern Conference, the difference between the two teams is three playoff seeds. In fact, if the playoffs were to start today, these very two teams would be slated for a first round playoff matchup.

With the Chicago Bulls idle Monday, the Heat could tie them for the second seed in the conference with a win over the Pacers. A loss could knock them down all the way to sixth, evening their record with the Pacers.

Every game the rest of the way will count for the Miami Heat, a far cry from the less than dramatic regular seasons during the Big 3 era.

Matchup to Watch: Paul George vs the Heat Defense

Paul George has averaged 29.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 3 assists per game against the Miami Heat this season. He scored 36 points in the first matchup between the two teams.

If the Heat want avenge their two earlier losses against the Pacers, they’ll need to keep George quiet and from scoring 20+ points again. The Heat will need to contain George and make his teammates beat him.

That is no easy order, as George has been phenomenal this season, his first fill healthy season since breaking his leg playing for Team USA. George is averaging 24.5 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 4.0 assists per game this season. He has shot 42 percent from the field and 40 percent from 3-point range.

George’s true shooting percentage is at a career high of 56.4 percent. He is a true superstar and the Heat are going to have a tall task of slowing him down.

X-Factor: Dwyane Wade

Despite the Heat blowing the Washington Wizards out on Sunday night, Dwyane Wade did not have his best night. He shot just 3-for-10 from the field, scoring 8 points and collecting 4 rebounds in 24 minutes of play.

With the Heat in control for much of the game against the Wizards, Eric Spolestra was able to rest Wade and keep his legs fresh for what should be a much more competitive game on Monday night. Hopefully a rested Wade is able to string together a strong outing Monday and lead the Heat to a huge conference win.

Wade maybe yearning for the calendar to turn back to 2015, as he’s been dealing with flu-like symptoms, hangover accusations, and a poor game against the Wizards three days into 2016.

Injury Update:

Justise Winslow returned to action for the Heat on Sunday and should play in this game. Josh McRoberts is questionable for the game.

More heat: Heat Willing to Deal Beno?

Key Stats:

Miami Heat offensive efficiency: 10th, 103.2 points per 100 possessions
Miami Heat defensive efficiency: 7th, 99.1 points per 100 possessions

Indiana Pacers offensive efficiency: 13th, 102.3 points allowed per 100 possessions
Indiana Pacers defensive efficiency: 6th, 98.7 points allowed per 100 possessions