Instead of preparing for its fourth appearance in the NBA Finals, the Miami Heat must gear up for a pivotal game 6 against an Indiana Pacers team, who fills confident and rejuvenated after winning 93-30 in a win-or-go home situation Wednesday evening.
If Game 5 was any indication of how the rest of the series will go, we should all be ‘sitting on the edge of our seats’ tonight. Miami had the chance to end the series in a commanding fashion and rest up before the start of the NBA Finals. Now, the Heat will have to win tonight at home to earn a spot in the NBA Finals. However, Miami must play smart and get back to Heat basketball in tonight’s matchup.
LeBron James must stay out of foul trouble. If he gets into foul trouble, his production will be limited. In 24 minutes during the last game, James scored a playoff-career low of seven points. This is unacceptable. James cannot win the game by himself for the Heat, but he cannot afford to sit on the bench because of fouls. He must play smart and score effectively.
Not to say Paul George is not a great player, but without James on the court, he looks like a true superstar. The Pacers will depend on him to lift them into a Game 7.
Without George’s 37 points and 21 of them coming in the fourth quarter, Indiana probably would have lost the game. Because they did not lose, it is important for the Heat to limit his production, leaving the team to rely on Hibbert, West, Stephenson and Hill for strong offensive production tonight
Like George, West and Hibbert combined for 29 points and 22 rebounds in Game 5. Hibbert alone had 13 rebounds. Although Bosh grabbed 10 rebounds in the last game, he must remain active in the post. We know that Indiana has a size advantage in the paint against Miami, but if the Heat can win the battle on the boards, they have a strong chance in limiting the Pacers on offense.
Honestly, limiting West and Hibbert in their production give the Heat more of advantage in terms of stopping the Pacers on offense. As long as James is guarding George, his production will not be stopped but he will work much harder for the points he earns. Thus, with George being the main source of offense without West and Hibbert, it forces other players to step up and score.
Free throws will be critical for Miami, only getting to the line eight times in the previous game. Although converting 7-of-8 from the charity stripe, Indiana shot 59% (13-of-22) from the line. Down the stretch, free throws can be the game-changing moments in winning and losing games. Thus, only getting to the free throw line eight times will not cut it for Miami. Wade, James and other Heat players must find a way to get to the free throw line.
Ray Allen has to be the X factor in tonight’s game. He scored 15 points in the last game but he must come up strong tonight as well. Rashard Lewis surprised many with his performance last game, scoring 18 points off of stellar three point shooting. If he can repeat that performance in tonight’s game, it will further help Miami to make its fourth NBA Finals appearance.
The game will be televised tonight at 8:30 p.m. eastern time on ESPN.