3 Things we learned about the Heat in their win over the Pacers

The Miami Heat won a thrilling game over the Indiana Pacers, 142-132, on Thursday night. Who knew they could play with such pace?
Nov 30, 2023; Miami, Florida, USA; Miami Heat guard Jaime Jaquez Jr. (11) dribbles the basketball as
Nov 30, 2023; Miami, Florida, USA; Miami Heat guard Jaime Jaquez Jr. (11) dribbles the basketball as / Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

MIAMI -- Here are three things we learned about the Miami Heat in their running-and-gunning, 142-132, win over the Indiana Pacers Thursday night at Kaseya Center. 

1 They can play with pace... sort of

The Heat and Pacers entered Thursday night’s game on opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of style. Indiana, owners of the league’s fastest pace this season; and Miami, fourth-slowest in the category. It was fair to assume that whichever team’s style took hold would have the advantage.

“They’re not an easy team to defend,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

This was the case for most of the game. The Pacers got out to a 13-point lead in the first quarter and did not trail for more than three quarters of play. But the Heat found their footing and cut the deficit to three entering the fourth quarter. 

A big reason for the comeback was slowing the game down between possessions. Jimmy Butler in the third quarter scored 16 points and earned 10 foul shots. Butler was a wide receiver sprinting down the court, establishing position near the rim and sealing off his defender before catching a pass from a teammate. 

While the game with the clock running was played at a fast tempo, the Heat established their style when the clock was stopped by continually getting to the paint and drawing fouls. That three different Pacers fouled out in this game says a lot about Miami’s physicality. 

Thursday’s game was the fastest-paced game the Heat have played all season, featuring 106.5 possessions. (Only 18 other games across the league this season were played faster.)

“I do like it because it’s free-form basketball,” Butler said. “You got to make so many reads on the fly and that’s kinda what today’s game is like anyways. I think we gotta be able to win if it’s a half-court game, calling plays, or if we’re playing up and down in transition. 

“It shows we are capable of playing like that, but it’s definitely not our style of basketball,” he continued. “But a win is a win, so I guess we gotta start playing a little bit faster.”

The Heat ended up scoring a season-high, including 78 points in the second half. Butler finished with 36 points and the Heat got double-digit scoring nights from Jaime Jaquez Jr. (24), Josh Richardson (19), Duncan Robinson (16), Kyle Lowry (15) and Caleb Martin (14).

“They play at a crazy fast pace, they shoot a lot of shots. They speed you up,” Richardson said. “As the game went on, we just kind of started wearing on them a little bit and started trying to slow it down, execute, get the ball where it needs to get.”

2. Jaime Jaquez Jr. is Jimmy Butler Lite

After Butler dragged the Heat back into the game in the third quarter, he took his usual rest to start the fourth quarter. Those few minutes ended up deciding the game.

It was an opportunity for the Pacers to stop the bleeding and go on a run of their own to put the game away. Instead, Jaquez came in and copied what had been working for Butler. Jaquez scored 10 points in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter to give the Heat their first lead of the game.

Forty-two seconds into the final frame, Jaquez drove past Indiana’s defense for a layup. Then Richardson and Martin found him cutting behind the defense for back-to-back scores. Then a turnaround jumper and a pair of free throws to put the Heat up five with 7:52 to go. At that point, Butler re-entered the game and the Heat did not look back.

“Both those guys process pretty quickly then we’re able to get some mileage and some open looks from their post-ups or isos,” Spoelstra said of the similarities between Butler and Jaquez. “And that’s super important when you’re playing a team like this.”

3. Bam Adebayo's lingering hip injury is an issue

Midway through the second quarter, Bam Adebayo missed a turnaround jumper and then labored his way back on defense. Seconds later, he was subbed out for Butler and went to the locker room. He did not return to the game after missing four of five shots in five minutes. 

Adebayo’s left hip – the one that sidelined him for three games already this season – was bothering him again. Adebayo had his hip treated at halftime and planned to return in the second half but Spoelstra stepped in. He called Adebayo into his office and told him he was done for the night.

“It’s November,” Spoelstra told Adebayo, “I’m not putting you back in the second half. I’m taking this decision out of your hands.”

Adebayo has occasionally popped up on the injury report with a left hip contusion. It bothered him late in last week’s game in New York, prompting him to miss the following night’s game in Brooklyn. It’s unclear if Adebayo will have to sit out Saturday’s rematch against the Pacers.

“It’s the same deal so it’s not, thankfully, something serious,” Spoelstra said. “But you play competitive NBA basketball, you get hit, you're jumping, you’re twisting, all that stuff. He heals fast so we’ll continue to treat him and see where we are.”