On Tuesday, December 10th 2013 the most important game at this point of the season for the Eastern Conference occurred when the Miami Heat traveled to Indiana to face the Pacers. At the end of the night the Pacers were table to take the victory by the score of 90-84. In this win there are various points that both teams can focus upon for what is expected to be the match up for the Eastern Conference Championship this post season.
Who is going to guard Paul George?
Early in the game LeBron James took up the challenge of guarding the star player. While doing so he powered the Heat to a big lead in the onset of the action. James defensive abilities helped keep George to just two points in the first half. James would then switch off of George after earning his third foul. That would call for Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen to defend George who would score 15 points in the second half of the game.
This is an important note for the Miami Heat. In the post season it's the norm for fouls to be called much tighter to help control the intensity of the game. If they are forced to keep their best defender from guarding their opponents best player, that will cause a mismatch that the Heat will struggle with.
The Rebounding Game
The Indiana Pacers have been one of the better rebounding teams during the last few years of play. During the Eastern Conference Finals last season they continually beat up the Heat in the battle for loose balls. Last night they won the rebounding challenge 43-33, which is a key stat late in very close games. They Heat made specific moves in which many believed were meant to address this problem, but at this point in the year they haven't had the opportunity to use those players as they are currently 30th in the league in average rebounding.
The Michael Beasley Effect
The Heat bench were able to outscore the Pacers bench 24-15. One of the key players that did not play was Michael Beasley who has had a strong season for the Heat at this point in the year. He sat out his third straight game due to a hamstring injury with his left leg. When active he has been a boost for the Heat while star players are resting on the bench. It will be interesting to see if he is placed back on the bench the next time these team play or if he will be within the starting roster to give the Heat another scoring and rebounding threat from the very start of the game.
The Indiana Pacers have drawn first blood in what is becoming the best rivalry in the NBA. With three more games on the schedule it will be captivating to see what adjustments are made by both teams to obtain or keep the upper hand. The Pacers have a three game lead in the quest for home court advantage in the East. It's early in the year but this is an important win for the Indiana Pacers.