While the Heat will try to carry their strong play deep into the playoffs, the Pacers’ sudden surge is too little, too late.
Miami looks to extend its season-high winning streak to seven and move closer to a postseason berth Friday night when it visits an already-eliminated Indiana team seeking its seventh victory in eight games.
The Heat (41-34) defeated Detroit 98-81 on Wednesday, completing a 12-3 month of March that vaulted them from ninth to sixth in the Eastern Conference, one-half game behind fifth-place Milwaukee.
Michael Beasley’s(notes) 28 points carried the offense against the Pistons with Dwyane Wade(notes) struggling and Jermaine O’Neal(notes) sitting out his second straight game with a hyperextended right knee. O’Neal could return Friday to help the Heat try to extend their six-game winning streak - their longest since reeling off nine straight Feb. 28-March 16, 2007.
Beasley’s effort - which also included 11-of-22 shooting and nine rebounds - came after he’d combined for 10 points on 4-of-19 shooting in his previous two games. It also helped make up for a rare poor game from Wade, who finished with 10 points, one assist and three rebounds.
“This wasn’t the most efficient game we’ve had, especially offensively, but the important thing is the win,” coach Eric Spoelstra said.
Defense has been the biggest reason for Spoelstra’s club’s winning streak. The Heat are allowing an average of 80.5 points and 36.9 percent shooting during their run. They’ve had similar success against the Pacers this season, limiting them to 82.0 points and 34.7 percent from the field to win the first three meetings of the series by an average of 25.7 points.
Wade is averaging 29.7 points and shooting 55.4 percent against Indiana in 2009-10.
Another win Friday would give Miami its first season series sweep of the Pacers in its 21-year history. These teams haven’t met since Jan. 19, though, and the Pacers have been playing much better lately - especially at home.
Indiana (28-47) has won six of seven overall, and its last eight at Conseco Fieldhouse. The Pacers haven’t won nine in a row at home since reeling off 14 straight Nov. 28, 2002-Jan. 26, 2003.
“We continue a very nice run at home,” Indiana coach Jim O’Brien said after Tuesday’s 102-95 win over Sacramento. “It’s nice to establish a home-court advantage. The guys are enjoying winning, obviously.”
Against the Kings, Granger scored 25 of his 33 points in the second half to help the Pacers overcome a nine-point halftime deficit.
“We made it a point to pick it up and play with a little more energy in the second half,” the 6-foot-9 forward said. “We moved the ball well, got stops, got boards and got the win. This is the way we would like to play for the rest of the year.”
Granger has struggled along with the rest of the Pacers against the Heat this season, averaging 15.0 points and shooting 22.2 percent in the three losses. The Pacers are 0-16 when Granger scores 20 points or fewer.