The Pacers won’t have to deal with the perennial All-Star center—he severely sprained his right ankle last Thursday when he stepped on Ron Artest’s foot during a loss to Indiana. Instead, the Pacers will get a heavier dose of guard Dwyane Wade.
Wade had 31 points and 10 assists against the Pacers. He missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer in the closing seconds of the 105-102 loss.
Pacers center David Harrison gets a break from the 7-foot-1 O’Neal, but he’ll have to adjust to the fact that Wade, one of the league’s quickest players, will enter his domain more often.
“I think that team is a little scary without Shaq,” Harrison said. “It puts Dwyane Wade in so many more positions where he handles the ball. I think Shaq is a great player, but they’re just as dangerous without him.”
The Pacers also must deal with Shaq’s replacement, seven-time All-Star Alonzo Mourning. The 12-year veteran had 14 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks in his first start of the season, a 105-100 loss to Milwaukee on Saturday.
“Shaq’s probably the most dominant player we’ve seen the past decade,” Indiana coach Rick Carlisle said, “but you have to remember they have Alonzo Mourning, who can cause a lot of the same problems. And, it puts the ball in Dwyane Wade’s hands a lot more … It’s a pick-your-poison proposition.”
Pacers center Scot Pollard, who missed most of the preseason and the first three regular-season games with a strained left calf, could play Wednesday. He’s glad Shaq will be on the sideline.
“It’s better for me to not have to go against the biggest and strongest my first game back,” he said. “I would have to only push around 300 pounds instead of 350 if I play.”
The Pacers might need Pollard more than they thought. Jermaine O’Neal missed Indiana’s practice on Monday. The Pacers’ leading scorer and rebounder injured his left foot against Philadelphia and had it examined Monday afternoon. He had 27 points and nine rebounds last Thursday while playing center against the Heat.
The Pacers will attempt to bounce back after a disappointing effort in a 111-109 loss to Philadelphia in their home opener. Indiana fell behind by 20 points late in the third quarter. The Pacers took no comfort in the fact that they made the game close toward the end.
“It’s not that important,” guard Jamaal Tinsley said. “We shouldn’t have put ourselves in that position in the first place.”
Harrison said the Pacers didn’t take the 76ers as seriously as they should have.
“I wouldn’t say we were overconfident,” Harrison said. “I think we’ve been looking ahead to Miami.”
STANDINGS (through Nov. 8): Heat - 2nd place (tied), 1 1/2 GB, Southeast Division. Pacers - 3rd place, 1 1/2 GB, Central Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Heat - Wade, 24.5 ppg and 7.8 apg; Walker, 8.0 rpg. Pacers - O’Neal, 23.0 ppg and 10.3 rpg; Tinsley, 5.7 apg.
SEASON SERIES: Pacers, 1-0.
LAST MEETING: Thursday; Pacers, 105-102. At Miami, Jermaine O’Neal scored 27 points, including six in the final three minutes as Indiana won for the 13th time in the last 14 regular-season meetings with the Heat.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Heat - 1-1 on the road; Pacers - 0-1 at home.