NBA Preview from The Sports Network
Friday, April 2nd (All times eastern)
Miami Heat (41-34) at Indiana Pacers (28-47), 7 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The Miami Heat put a season-best six-game winning streak on the line in tonight's matchup with the suddenly-dangerous Indiana Pacers from Conseco Fieldhouse.
The Heat appear to be playing their best ball of the season at the perfect time, with the recent surge moving the club within just a half-game of Milwaukee for fifth place in the Eastern Conference. Miami's current run is its longest since a stretch of nine straight victories from February 28-March 16, 2007.
Miami kept its winning ways intact with a 98-81 triumph over a disinterested Detroit Pistons squad in Wednesday's opener of a three-game road trip. Michael Beasley came through with 28 points and nine rebounds to help offset a poor shooting night out of star guard Dwyane Wade, while the Heat buried 12-of-21 three-point attempts in recording their 41st victory of the season.
Wade, the NBA's fifth-leading scorer at 26.2 points per game, managed only 10 points on 4-of-13 shooting. Quentin Richardson and Dorell Wright both had the hot hand, though, with Richardson knocking down 4-of-5 tries from beyond the arc in a 16-point performance and Wright making 4-of-6 long-distance shots en route to 17 points.
Miami, which also visits Western Conference cellar-dweller Minnesota on this swing, will be taking on a Pacers team it's easily handled this season. The Heat have won all three previous meetings between the squads in 2009-10, all by 13 points or more, and can sweep a season series from Indiana for the first time since joining the NBA as an expansion franchise in 1988-89.
The Pacers have been no pushover as of late, however, especially on their home court. Tuesday's 102-95 verdict over visiting Sacramento was Indiana's sixth win in seven games and eighth in a row at Conseco Fieldhouse, where the team hasn't lost since February 25.
Indiana, now 20-16 as the host for the season, hasn't recorded nine straight home wins since a 14-game tear from November 28, 2002-January 26, 2003.
The Pacers trailed the Kings 56-47 at halftime but took over after the intermission thanks to a huge effort from Danny Granger, who scored 25 of his game-best 33 points over the final two quarters.
"We made it a point to pick it up and play with a little more energy in the second half," Granger said. "We moved the ball, got stops, got boards and got the win. This is a way we would like to play for the rest of the year."
Granger has been terrific all throughout Indiana's late-year surge, with the fifth-year pro averaging 31.3 points over the Pacers' last seven outings.
Troy Murphy added 19 points and 13 rebounds to help Indiana overcome a 15- point second-quarter deficit.
Miami, which halted a 14-game road losing streak in this series with a 96-83 decision in Indianapolis on October 30, hopes to get center Jermaine O'Neal back in the lineup for tonight's tilt. The former Pacer, who's averaging 13.8 points and 7.1 rebounds this season, has sat out two straight contests due to a hyperextended right knee and will be a game-time decision.
04/02 11:36:22 ET