With their playoff series against Miami starting in several days, the Indiana Pacers appear undaunted by their inability to beat the Heat so far this season.
Miami has won the first three games of the season series — including Monday by convincing fashion — entering their relatively meaningless seeding game finale on Friday (4 p.m., ESPN, Fox Sports Sun). The winner will finish with the fourth seed and the loser will be the fifth seed, but that’s irrelevant in a season without home-court advantage.
“I think we have an opportunity to beat this team,” Pacers point guard Malcolm Brogdon said Thursday. “They’re a very good team, but we’re a very good team. We are going to rise to the occasion and take care of business. It’s very different from the regular season to the playoffs. It’s going to take the best players on both teams to step up and learn how to finish games.”
Brogdon, nevertheless, acknowledged Indiana is the underdog.
Pacers backup point guard T.J. McConnell said Indiana needs to run against Miami and maximize its speed in transition. “They’re a well-coached team but we’re just as well-coached,” he said.
Heat guard Tyler Herro’s take: “They’re a good team. They’re hungry. I’m sure they want to play us. They’re definitely excited to see us. We’re hungry as well. We like the matchup, and we’ll be ready to go once the playoffs come.”
Duncan Robinson warned that “it’s going to be a tough series. From everything I’ve heard about playoff basketball, nothing is easy. We’ve had our bouts with them already. We have another on Friday. That will be an interesting game. They are a really talented team, do a lot of things on both ends of the floor that are tough for us.”
Pacers coach Nate McMillan said: “We’ve been preparing for Miami, really the teams that we thought we could face. Miami, Boston, Philly, all of those were teams that we knew coming in that there was a good chance we were going to see one of them.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was not available to reporters on Thursday because the Heat did not practice, but both teams figure to rest many of their starters Friday.
“It’s a chance to get healthy,” McMillan said of Friday’s game. “It’s not like we’re going to take this game off. There are some guys that we may need to look at cutting their minutes or resting them due to some injuries and some fatigue.”
Later in the day, Indiana announced three of its top players - Victor Oladipo, Myles Turner and T.J. Warren - won’t play on Friday.
Meanwhile, the Heat listed Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic as out (none has developed a major injury; all will be fine for postseason) and listed Jae Crowder (right knee bruise) , Andre Iguodala and Derrick Jones Jr. (left knee bruise) as questionable for Friday’s game. Guard Gabe Vincent (shoulder) and forward K.Z. Okpala (personal reasons) are out.
Brogdon said he planned to spend Friday’s game “processing the [Heat’s] game, processing their plays, processing peoples’ tendencies so I can understand them a little bit better during the playoffs.”
Crowder, who bruised knees with Oklahoma City’s Luguentz Dort during the first half of Wednesday’s game, is expected to be fine for the start of the playoffs on Monday or Tuesday, according to a source. Crowder did not return to Wednesday’s game but was walking unencumbered afterward and X-rays were negative.
Meanwhile, Crowder is poised to break an obscure NBA record, and it speaks to why he has become such an important piece in Miami’s rotation.
No player who was ever traded during an NBA season has increased his three-point shooting percentage from one team to the next by as large a margin as Crowder has.
Crowder has gone from shooting 29.3 percent on three pointers in Memphis to 44.5 percent with Miami. That’s a jump of 15.2 percent.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the largest increase in three-point field goal percentage by a player who went from one team to another in a single season with a minimum of 30 threes made with each team is 13.3 by Mo Williams in 2010-11. Williams shot 26.5 percent on threes with Cleveland that season, and then shot 39.8 percent on threes with the Clippers.
Crowder, who replaced Meyers Leonard as a Heat starter when the NBA season resumed, is shooting an absurd 22 for 39 on three-pointers in the bubble. He made 78 of 266 threes in 45 games for Memphis this season (all starts) and has made 57 of 128 threes in 20 games for the Heat.
DRAFT PICK RESOLUTION
With several teams with similar records bunched together, the Heat entered Thursday in position to select anywhere from 19th to 24th in the Oct. 16 NBA Draft. Only six teams entered the final two days of seeding games assured of owning better final regular-season records than the Heat.
Miami’s draft position could be resolved as soon as the end of seeding games on Friday night, unless the Heat (44-28) finishes with the same record as another team. The NBA uses random drawings to break draft ties between teams with the same record.