Heat seeking repeat effort in 2nd of back-to-back vs. Pacers

Field Level Media

December 02, 2023 at 12:06 am.

As well as the Indiana Pacers have played in the NBA in-season tournament, the last thing they want to do is stumble into the East quarterfinals.

Losers of three of their past four games, the Pacers face the Miami Heat for the second time in as many games on Saturday before hosting the Boston Celtics in the first bracket game of the in-season tournament on Monday. Indiana finished 4-0 in tournament group play.

The Pacers fell to the Heat Thursday in Miami, 142-132. In the highest scoring game of the season for Miami, Jimmy Butler poured in 36 points and collected a game-high 10 rebounds.

For Indiana, Tyrese Haliburton continued his career year, scoring 44 points and dishing out 10 assists in the loss.

Haliburton has led Indiana, the highest scoring team in the league, with 27 points per game and 11.8 assists per contest. However, the defensive side of the ball has been a struggle for the Pacers, who rank last in the NBA in points allowed per game.

The defensive issues were apparent Thursday, as Indiana allowed Miami to score its most points since April 5, 2022, including 45 points in the fourth quarter.

“The fourth quarter was obviously very rough,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. “We’ve got to play better overall. We’ve got to make more shots. We’ve got to defend situations better. The fouling really hurt us.

“We’ve got plenty to look at and we have another shot at these guys on Saturday. It’s a tough place to play … . We’ll look at it and look forward to Saturday.”

The aforementioned Indiana foul trouble was an issue in the loss, as Buddy Hield, Aaron Nesmith and Andrew Nembhard all fouled out.

Miami’s scoring outburst was much needed, as the offense propelled the Heat to its first win in eight days following a three-game skid.

Heat rookie Jaime Jaquez Jr. scored a career-high 24 points on 8-for-13 shooting from the field, and Josh Richardson added 19 points off the bench to go along with Butler’s 36.

“(Jimmy) just felt it,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He settled everybody with all those attacks. It inspired the whole group and I think it inspired our defense to start making more efforts.”

In his rookie season, Jaquez Jr. already has gained Spolestra’s confidence, earning at least 30 minutes in each of Miami’s past four games.

“He has a poise about him and can be aggressive, and then also read the defense,” Spoelstra said. “I think that’s just born out of a lot of experience. He has played in a lot of big college basketball games when he had to make decision after decision for his team to be successful.”

Jaquez Jr.’s increased court time is partly due to the absence of Tyler Herro, sidelined with an ankle injury since Nov. 8.

Miami is also dealing with an injury to Bam Adebayo, who had to leave Thursday’s game with a hip issue. Adebayo will miss Saturday’s game.

Haliburton is dealing with a bruised right knee and is listed as questionable.

Saturday’s matchup will be the last time the teams meet until April 7 in Indianapolis.