Oh what a night it was back on January 8 in the NBA. The Miami Heat were in Indiana cleaning up a victory over the Pacers. TJ Warren and Jimmy Butler got into a shouting match about who is the tougher player. Warren called Jimmy soft. Jimmy told Warren he isn’t even in his league. The rest is history. Or so we thought????
If the playoffs were to begin today, the Miami Heat would be hosting the Indiana Pacers in a first-round playoff series. We’d get at least four games of Butler vs. Warren, which is a narrative that I think can carry this series. There aren’t many appealing first-round matchups in the East outside of potentially Celtics-Sixers. Heat-Pacers gives us some star power (Butler, Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis, Bam Adebayo). Two teams that are tough down low, play defense and have veteran coaches who have been around the block (Erik Spoelstra, Nate McMillan). Let’s take a look at the series and how it might break down.
Heat vs. Pacers series breakdown
Heat record: 41-24
Pacers record: 39-26
Season series: MIA 2-0
Since health likely isn’t going to factor in if the season starts up in June, that could make this series even more interesting. Before the break, the Pacers were dealing with injuries to Malcolm Brogdon, Victor Oladipo and Doug McDermott. Jeremy Lamb was also ruled out for the rest of the season, but who knows if he’d be a candidate to return in a few months. That’s something we’ll need to revisit, but for now, the Pacers should benefit a ton from extra rest for Brogdon. Dipo not being on a court again for a while shouldn’t help. He was inconsistent since returning from a torn quad at the end of January. He was in and out of the lineup and hadn’t played more than 28 minutes in a game all season. Rest isn’t what Dipo needs, it’s playing time.
As for the Heat, they’ve got one of the deeper rotations in the NBA. Meyers Leonard and Jimmy Butler were the only ones on the injury report before the coronavirus outbreak ended play. Leonard should be fine to return once the League resumes and Butler had only been out with a left toe injury that wasn’t deemed serious or anything. Goran Dragic, Solomon Hill, Kelly Olynyk and Andre Iguodala are veterans who should benefit from the layoff.
The Heat had only played about 10 games with the new additions of Iggy, Hill and Jae Crowder. Team chemistry will be big when the playoffs begin. The NBA will have been on break for a while and teams who don’t need to shake any rust off will be in the best position to advance. I’d like to think the Heat are deeper, have more talent and are a better coached team than the Pacers. It’s closer to an even, coin toss sort of matchup than anything.
Both teams play at a slow pace, so we should see a lot more halfcourt ball if it’s Heat-Pacers. The battle on the boards will be huge. Miami is among the top rebounding teams in the NBA and will have a healthy front court to operate with — one that could potentially include Adebayo, Olynyk, Leonard and Crowder. That won’t make things easier for Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner. Plus, the Pacers lack depth bigs on the bench. That lack of size is something Miami can take advantage of. Plus plus, there’s Butler. The Heat have the one player who can take over a game/series and dominate. With all that, I’d lean Miami initially in this matchup.