Miami’s Second Half Begins Friday in Indiana
Miami begins the second half of its season tonight with a trip to Indianapolis to take on the tough-to-beat Pacers.
Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 PM ET from Bakers Life Fieldhouse in downtown Indianapolis.
Call it championship advantage, lucky scheduling, a conspiracy, or anything else you like, Eric Spoelstra’s side has only played 42 games up until this point. That’s fewer than any other team in the league, with the exception of Minnesota, who has also played 42.
In fact, 25 of the NBA’s 30 teams have already played 45 games or more. New York (43), Milwaukee (44), and Washington (44) join the Heat and Timberwolves in the pack of five yet to play 45.
To put it in further perspective, San Antonio – currently leading the Western Conference – has played 48 games, as have the Houston Rockets. That’s six more than the Heat.
Miami’s relative lax schedule so far has seen the side top the Eastern Conference, 1.5 games ahead of the second-place Knicks. It’s that position that the Heat will be looking to hold on to as Apr. 17 and the close of the NBA’s regular season draws ever closer.
Of those 42 games, the Heat has enjoyed an even split of 21 home and 21 road games. That makes the remaining schedule that little more manageable.
Of course, Miami’s road woes have been well documented. Of those 21 games played away from South Beach, the Heat has won 11 and lost 10. These struggles have seen the Heat fall to a series of midlevel sides, with only the Knicks, Grizzlies, and Clippers currently ranking in the top four of their respective conference. The lowest moments came for the Heat in losses to Washington and Detroit.
One of those losses also came at the hands of Friday night’s opponent, Indiana. On Jan. 8, the Pacers restricted the Heat to its lowest scoring output (77) of the season the last time the sides met. LeBron James and Co. don’t just want better in this rematch, they need better.
At home things have been very different. Miami has lost just three games at AmericanAirlines Arena, coming up short against New York (Dec. 6), Golden State (Dec. 12), and Chicago (Jan. 4). Only San Antonio has lost fewer home games.
Whilst an 18-3 record is something to boast about, those three losses may offer an inkling of doubt going forward, particularly as each of those sides looks to be playoff bound.
With the second half of the schedule in front of the team, Miami will look to bolster up even its home record. But that might not be all that easy.
An easy first half of the season means the Heat will face a more compact second half. With 42 games to play – compared to San Antonio’s 34 – there will be less time for rest, and more time for weariness. That goes double for the seven back-to-back outings the Heat will undertake.
Three extended road trips of four or more games lies ahead, although one of them is conveniently shorten to three games thanks to the All Star break. All three look winnable, if Miami can get its road game in order.
That can start tonight. At least, the Heat hopes it can.
Indiana is one of the best home teams in the NBA. The Pacers have dropped just three games at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, and the last of those came on Dec. 7. Since, Frank Vogel’s side has won 12 on the bounce, including that Jan. 8 clash with Miami.
Bookmakers are not perturbed though. The Heat – who are actually winners of three of the last four on the road – are favorites heading into the game, with the spread at 2.5. The total is 185.5, reflective of the low-scoring that Indiana initiates game in and game out; the Pacers give up just 89.9 points per game, which is second in the league.
The Pacers also limits opponents to .419 shooting, making the team the best defensive unit in the NBA. For Miami to win on Friday night, it will need to utilize its league-best .489 shooting to neutralize the Pacers. Can that be done? We’ll soon find out.