Who would’ve guessed that all it would take for the Indiana Pacers to get back to their winning ways and move back into first place in the Eastern Conference, would be for them to sit all of their starters and rely on their bench? Well, that’s exactly what happened on Wednesday when the Pacers beat the Bucks. Granted, it was a marginal 104-102 win against the worst team in the NBA, but at this point in the season, the Pacers will likely take whatever they can get.
What might have been the most telling point on the night was that the Pacers proved that they have a bench that can be useful, in the event that they are needed. Does that mean that Luis Scola or Evan Turner could lead a surge against, or even hold off, the likes of the Heat or the Nets? That might be taking it a bit too far. However, Scola’s 24-points and 9-rebounds and Turner’s 23-points and 9-assists were huge for Indiana on Wednesday. And it also may have been the perfect amount of confidence that everyone on the team needed. Now starters know that the bench can come through when needed, and the likes of Scola and Turner know they can come up big in those moments.
At the same time that the Pacers were squeaking by the Bucks, the Heat were entrenched in their own battle against Memphis. However, despite 37-points from LeBron James, the Grizzles, with the help of 27 from Zach Randolph, were able to get a 107-102 win on their home court.
The win against the Heat helped keep Memphis in the Western Conference playoff hunt, as they are now just one game back of Dallas. But as for the Heat, it was enough to put them ½ a game behind Indiana in the East.
The Pacers have just three games left, while the Heat have three. However, the irony in it all is the fact that both of these teams next game, will be against one another. This makes their matchup on Friday incredibly important. There is the potential that the winner of this game will get the top seed in the East, which means they’ll get home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. That could come in incredibly handy, especially if these teams meet in the Eastern Conference Finals like they did last year.
The Pacers currently lead the season series against the Heat, winning the last one just a few weeks ago on March 26th on their home court, 84-83. The Heat will look to tie things up, now that the final game will be in South Beach.
This game will certainly be the highlight of the NBA schedule on Friday. You can expect the starters for the Pacers to be back in the lineup and for both of these teams to go back and forth in order to do whatever it takes to try and claim that top spot in the East. Keep in mind that while the Heat are an impressive 31-8 at home this year, the Pacers are at a 19-19 record. If they are looking to scoot above the .500 mark, there is no better time than to go for it on Friday.