INDIANAPOLIS – No fireworks from Butler vs. Warren and not much life from the Pacers.
That about sums up what we saw from Monday night’s anticipated matchup between Indiana and Miami.
Terrible starts to each half from the Pacers had them playing from behind for virtually the entire game, which led to a 114-92 win by the Heat.
Miami showed why they have been the surprise team in the East this season, with pesky defense and balanced scoring (8 guys in double figures).
A first-half spark from the Pacers bench led to Indiana getting back into Monday’s game and tying the score at halftime.
But the Indiana starters struggled out of half and that meant both teams would empty their benches well before the closing minutes.
Jimmy Butler did guard T.J. Warren in their much-ballyhooed matchup, but there wasn’t much sizzle to things. Butler scored 19 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Warren found hardly any success when guarded by Butler, and scored 12 points while grabbing 4 rebounds.
Victor Oladipo led the Pacers with 14 points.
The 89 points on 39 percent shooting were both Orlando bubble lows for Indiana.
With Monday’s win, the Heat have won the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Pacers and will clinch the No. 4 seed with one more win or one Pacers loss.
The Pacers have 2 games left in the Orlando regular season finish with the Rockets on Wednesday (4:00 PM) and the Heat again on Friday (TBD).
Three Things Learned
-Warren vs. Butler Lacks Fireworks: Well, that was a buzzkill. The hype and buildup of T.J. Warren and Jimmy Butler matching up again after their tussle back in January was ‘pretty meh’ on Monday. Warren didn’t guard Butler, with Butler guarding Warren a decent amount. We never got any extracurriculars from them after the whistle, or even any good 1-on-1 battles during the run of play. Warren finished 5-of-14 for 12 points and 3 rebounds, with just one field goal coming when guarded by Butler. And Butler scored 19 points on 5-of-13 shooting and grabbed 11 rebounds, going 9-of-11 from the foul line. Good news? We should see these two teams play in Round 1 of the Playoffs, so it’s inevitable that a higher level of intensity will spark something between Butler and Warren (hopefully).
-Better Bench Moments: A first-half stretch on Monday was probably the best we’ve seen the bench perform in Orlando. With the Pacers starters in an early hole, it was T.J. McConnell and his bench mates that got Indiana back into it. All 5 reserves (McConnell, Justin Holiday, Edmond Sumner, Doug McDermott and JaKarr Sampson) scored in the first half and it was that group’s spark which led to a tie score at halftime. At one point, the reserves had 19 of Indiana’s first 28 points. Entering Monday, the Pacers have lacked consistent production from the bench in Orlando. The loss of Domantas Sabonis has really hurt the rotation. Other injuries have forced Nate McMillan into trying different combos of mixing and matching starters and reserves. What exactly that looks like in the playoffs remains to be seen. But Monday night brought more of what we saw from that bunch in the regular season.
-Get Ready For More Heat: It’s possible that the Pacers and Heat will matchup in Indiana’s 9 of the next 10 games. They’ll meet again on Friday in the regular season finale, and then it’s looking like these two teams will play each other in Round 1 of the playoffs, with a best-of-7 format. What to expect from the Heat? Honestly, the Pacers are probably a more talented team than Miami. But the Heat do a great job of making you work on the defensive end and they play very sound together. That’s a similarity of the Pacers, but the Heat seem even more in cohesion with some very niche players serving specific roles. Miami is definitely a well-coached team that lacks that dominant star who can get you 30 points every game of a playoff series. How the Pacers execute in the halfcourt offense against a committed defensive team is a definite storyline. Even though we didn’t see it on Monday, expect to see some zone from Miami, as well.
Pacers Regular Season Re-Start Schedule
-Rockets, 8/12 (Wednesday), 4:00 PM
-Heat, 8/14 (Friday), 4:00 PM
Current Eastern Conference Standings
1. Milwaukee (55-16)
2. Toronto (51-19), 3.5 games back
3. Boston (47-23), 7.5 games back
4. Miami (44-27), 11.0 games back
5. Indiana (43-28), 12.0 games back
6. Philadelphia (42-28), 12.5 games back
7. Brooklyn (34-36), 20.5 games back
8. Orlando (32-39), 23.0 games back