Heat-Pacers Game 4 Preview

1. Where We Are: The Heat put out a dominating performance in Game 3 on Sunday to remind everybody how good they are and take a 2-1 series lead over the Pacers. The Miami Heat didn’t win Game 3 due to an overwhelming performance by LeBron James. In fact, James had a good 22-point, four-rebound, four-assist effort while playing really good defense, but his play in the post was just an average-sized part of a total team effort. Dwyane Wade gave the Heat plenty of playmaking, Udonis Haslem had a revival around the baseline, and the Miami bench completely outplayed the Pacers’ bench. The Indiana Pacers had great efforts from their two big men, but Paul George and Lance Stephenson killed a lot of momentum with shoddy shooting throughout the game. Not even 44 free-throw attempts for the Pacers could get them within actual striking distance in this game.

2. The Big Number: Five. The Heat were one of the best teams at taking care of the ball in the regular season. In the first two games of this series, Miami turned the ball over 36 times with 21 of them coming in a game that they barely escaped with a victory. In Game 3, they did a great job of handling the Pacers’ top-ranked defense and just didn’t give the ball away to them. Instead, they turned the ball over just five times in the entire 48 minutes, never allowing Indiana to get many opportunities in transition to catch Miami off guard. George had as many turnovers in Game 3 as the entire Heat team did.

3. Key Adjustment: Getting Paul George and George Hill loose on the perimeter. These two players have been good in this series so far, but Game 3 showed us that the Pacers getting great front-line efforts from their big men and the team getting to the free-throw line just simply isn’t enough. They have to find a way to bring an all-around attack against the Heat in order to get their team defense off kilter. The Pacers are known for their defense, but the Heat’s defense was pretty good this year, too. It’s hard to consistently stop Miami’s offense from scoring efficiently, so you have to match it with firepower. Finding ways to spread the floor and attack quicker off pick-and-rolls could help Hill and George avoid the traps near the top and the side that have left them so baffled. Hill is one of the best scorers coming off the pick-and-roll, and George is so good moving toward the basket that you need to limit the amount of time that they spend dribbling on the perimeter. This will keep the defense honest and the ball moving.

4. The Big Story: Are the Heat capable of crippling the Pacers’ competitive nature? After the Game 2 victory by the Pacers last Friday, people started wondering if Indiana was capable of not just giving us a series but pulling off the upset. The Heat reminded everybody in the very next game that they didn’t get those championship rings out of a cereal box. Their dominating performance was a nice reminder that they have the upper hand in this series, but do they have the wherewithal put all of the pressure on the Pacers to prove themselves the rest of the series? A 3-1 hole against the Heat, heading back to Miami, would probably be enough to put a crippling amount of doubt in the Pacers’ attack. But winning two straight games in Indiana is not an easy thing to do. The Heat have a chance to step on the throats of the Pacers with another convincing victory that mirrors Game 3. Do they have it in them to complete this?

5. The Facts: 8:30 p.m. ET tipoff. Both teams are assumed to be healthy for Game 4

Source: Zach Harper, CBSSports.com