Although they’re centered around one of the NBA’s most prolific scorers, the Miami Heat would perhaps prefer to be thought of as a defensive-minded team.
The Heat hope to hold a third straight opponent under 90 points - and earn a third consecutive victory - as the sputtering Indiana Pacers visit Miami on Sunday.
While Miami guard Dwyane Wade(notes) led the NBA with 30.2 points last season and has recaptured that form lately by averaging 29.0 in his last three games, a stingy defense has had an equally big effect on the team’s recent success.
After hitting a low point by allowing 118 points in a blowout home loss to Memphis on Dec. 13, the Heat (15-12) have responded by winning four of five, holding opponents to 88.0 points per game and 43.7 percent shooting in that stretch.
Miami followed up Wednesday’s 80-70 lockdown of Utah with a 93-87 Christmas Day win over the New York Knicks, who matched their lowest point total of the season.
“We’re not a team that can come out and spar and see the pace of the game and then get going,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Thats just not our personality.
“We have to be on edge however we get there, Ray Lewis-style,” the coach added, referring to the Baltimore Ravens’ star linebacker. “We have to dictate the energy and the tempo of the game from the beginning.”
Indiana had trouble scoring against the Heat on Oct. 30, losing 96-83 at home to Miami as Wade went to the free throw line 19 times and scored 32 points.
Against the Knicks, Wade had 30 points, reaching that number for just the second time since Thanksgiving. The banged-up star has dealt with wrist and back problems this month, but the Heat hope his recent surge is a sign that he’s feeling better.
He added nine rebounds, five assists and four steals Friday, scoring 10 points in the final six minutes of the game.
“There was a point when I walked out of the huddle our assistant coach, Coach (David) Fizdale said, ‘Take us home,’ and I just had that mentality,” Wade said. “Early in the game I was picking my spots … at that moment, I said it was time for me to be a little bit more aggressive.”
Wade should get plenty of opportunities against Indiana, which has dropped five straight and 16 of its last 20. Playing their 10th consecutive game without leading scorer Danny Granger(notes), the Pacers lost 110-98 at home to Atlanta on Saturday.
With the starters struggling, Indiana coach Jim O’Brien gave bigger minutes than usual to some of his bench players, as Luther Head(notes) scored a season-high 19 points, matching rookie Tyler Hansbrough(notes) and Troy Murphy(notes) for the team high.
“I went with the guys who I thought gave us the energy to climb out of the hole,” O’Brien said, “but they didn’t have enough to come back and get the win.”
Indiana (9-19) has even bigger issues on the road, where it has lost 10 of 11.