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Heat Moves Into Top Spot With Win Over Pacers

NBAHeatTuesThe home court advantage in the Eastern Conference playoffs is critical for the Conference Finals. This is especially true for the Indiana Pacers who lost Game Seven of the conference finals in Miami to the Miami Heat a year ago. They have been fighting all season to gain the top spot in the East and have held that spot for much of the second half. They no longer have it.

They lost it last night when they went to Miami and lost to the Heat 98-86, thereby proving why they need the top seed. Lebron James went off for 36 points in the statement game to take a half game lead. Miami is now 54-25 and have three to play. The Pacers are 54-26 with two to go. Miami has road games tonight at the Atlanta Hawks, then Monday at the Washington Wizards and at home on Wednesday against the Philadelphia 76ers.The Sixers are an automatic win and they should be able to handle the Hawks and Wizards, although neither will be easy.

Indiana has the Oklahoma City Thunder tomorrow at home and then close with a road game at the Orlando Magic. They are likely looking at a split so they would need the Heat to lose both of those road games to gain the one seed. The good news is the Pacers do own the tiebreaker so a win over the Thunder and they would need only one Heat slip up provided they do not lose to Orlando.

These two teams split the season series 2-2. They both won their two home games. So this could very well decided the Eastern Conference Champions.

But neither team has played very well after the All-Star Break. The Chicago Bulls and Brooklyn Nets and also the Toronto Raptors may be going into these playoffs thinking they can get to the Finals as well. In the case of the Pacers, they may be right. This team seems to have a fragile psyche because they stated all season that this was their goal, to get to the top seed and to beat Miami on the road. They may accomplish neither. Coupled with this second half slump, one has to wonder where their heads will be come the playoffs if they get into a tough series with a team like the Bulls or Nets.

Chicago has played pretty well since they lost Derrick Rose to another season ending injury early on. They were four games under when they traded Luol Deng in what looked like a surrender move. Since then they are 19 over .500 and have won seven in a row. They clearly are the hottest team in the East going into the playoffs. Also, the Nets swept the Heat 4-0 in the season series this year. So a Pacers-Heat series is no longer a given. But it is still the most likely Eastern Conference Finals match-up and it looks now like Miami will have the home court. That is huge.

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