Heat-Pacers stakes beyond win streak
by Mike Wells, USA TODAY Sports
MIAMI — Don’t say it’s just one of 82 games during the long NBA season.
It’s more than that.
Don’t say what happens this evening at American Airlines Arena won’t mean anything if these teams meet again in the playoffs.
The best two teams in the Eastern Conference.
One is on a 17-game winning streak.
The other is the last team to beat it 38 days ago, and holds a 2-0 lead in the season series.
Something has to give.
The Indiana Pacers, who feel under-appreciated, against the Miami Heat, the team with all the flashiness and the best player walking this planet.
“I’m real excited for this game,” Pacers swingman Paul George said. “It should be a fun one. It’ll be like Christmas Eve; I won’t be able to sleep. I’m really up for this one.”
South Beach has been the center of the NBA since LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh decided to join forces almost three years ago.
The Pacers have played with a chip on their shoulder since James and Wade took the series from them last spring with performances that had everybody (except Pacers fans) wanting more.
“(We came into the season with the mindset of proving) we can beat them because of how that playoff series ended,” Pacers power forward David West said.
To say these teams don’t care for each would be an understatement.
There has been lots of trash talk. Hard fouls. Flagrant fouls. Even a suspension during their playoff series last season.
“They’re as chippy as any team in the NBA,” Heat forward Shane Battier said. “There always are a couple of extracurriculars in there. We don’t back down from anybody.”
How the Pacers play against the Heat can be looked at as a sign of respect despite the teams not caring for each other.
“You can’t be the one that lets them hit you first,” Pacers point guard George Hill said. “You have to play with an edge and chippiness because they’re the best team in the NBA for a reason. They’re the world champs. You go into the game respecting that and knowing you have to bring your best, and that’s what we do.”