Heat vs Pacers: What to Watch For in Game 6

Heat vs Pacers
Chris Andersen has been suspended for Game 6. (Photo Credit: Isaac Baldizon/Getty Images)

The Miami Heat face perhaps their most difficult challenge of the playoffs on Saturday night, getting a second win in Bankers Life Fieldhouse against the Indiana Pacers. A win on Saturday would propel the Heat to their third straight NBA Finals, but a loss would result in a Game 7 match-up against the Pacers back in Miami. The Heat have won their last six close-out games, but no one expects things to be easy.

“The close-out game is always the toughest,” Heat forward Shane Battier said.

To make matters all the more difficult, reserve center Chris Andersen has been suspended for Game 6 after his altercation with Indiana forward Tyler Hansbrough. The loss of the Birdman will force Heat head coach Erik Spolestra to adjust his rotation, and no doubt the prideful Pacers will respond to their crowd’s frenzied presence. Here are a few things to watch for in tonight’s pivotal Game 6 contest.

Rotation Changes

When Chris Andersen hip-checked Tyler Hansbrough and pushed the spastic forward, he was only assessed a flagrant-1 foul and a technical foul. Pundits immediately called for his suspension, perhaps deservedly so, but Andersen was allowed to continue playing in the game and registered a vicious block on a Hansbrough lay-up attempt a little later. The NBA stepped in on Friday, upgraded Andersen’s foul to a flagrant-2, which, had it been assessed during the game it would have resulted in his ejection, and suspended the colorfully hued Heat forward for tonight’s Game 6.

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Heat Take Game 5, 90-79

Heat vs Pacers
Udonis Haslem scored 16 points in Game 5. (Photo Credit: Isaac Baldizon/Getty Images)

This series has been defined, in large part, by dominance. Indiana has dominated the glass, holding a +42 edge in rebounding heading into Game 5, and controlled the middle. Through much of the first half, Indiana used their height and length to their advantage yet again, beating up Miami’s frontcourt and building a 44-40 lead going into halftime. The Pacers netted the first basket of the third quarter, but the Heat responded with a 7-2 run at that point. LeBron James dominated the third quarter, and after outscoring the Pacers 30-13 in the period, the Heat held on to win Game 5, 90-79.

LeBron James scored 16 points, dished four assists and grabbed four rebounds in the third quarter to help Miami take total control of both the game and the series. After the win, the Heat is now one win away from their third consecutive trip to the NBA Finals.

“That’s what I came here for,” LeBron James said, “to be able to compete for a championship each and every year.”

LeBron James and Udonis Haslem spurred Miami through a dominant third quarter run to seize the game. A scrum under Indiana’s basket that involved a George Hill offensive foul and technical fouls on David West, Mario Chalmers and Udonis Haslem, seemed to spark Miami in the quarter. LeBron James buried 7-of-10 shots in the period, while Udonis Haslem netted all five of his field goal attempts for 10 points. Over that same span, the Indiana Pacers made just 3-of-14 field goal tries, managing just 13 points, six rebounds and one assist in the quarter.

“That’s LeBron showing his greatness,” said Heat head coach Erik Spolestra, “and making it look easy.”

After the game, Indiana head coach Frank Vogel was asked if there was anything a team could do when James gets on a roll like the one he was on in the third quarter.

“I don’t really know,” Vogel answered. “He was pretty special tonight. There’s no question about it.”

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