- As expected, the biggest concern for the Heat entering the series is stopping the Spurs’ pick-and-roll. Coach Erik Spoelstra said seeing it often this season from other teams helped the preparation. He said, “Every team runs so many pick and rolls, it’s hard not to get better. Certainly Tony Parker’s pick-and-roll … is a different element. But when you’re getting attacked 30-40 different pick-and-rolls every single night for six months, you have to develop something where your guys feel comfortable.”
- Heat guard Dwyane Wade (knee) and center Chris Bosh (ankle) said they haven’t experienced any setbacks from injuries sustained in the previous series against the Indiana Pacers.
- The chief worry for the Spurs is avoiding a letdown after such a long layoff. They haven’t played since defeating the Memphis Grizzlies May 27. Coach Gregg Popovich said, “We haven’t played in a long time, so that’s my biggest concern. I don’t really know what to expect.”
- Kawhi Leonard draws the assignment of defending LeBron James at the beginning but Popovich said he will use multiple looks throughout the series.
- Heat coach Erik Spoelstra will remain with the same starting lineup, but didn’t rule any possible changes to the rotation. Swingman Mike Miller could see more time after giving solid minutes in the second half of Game 6. There is a chance backup center Joel Anthony remains in the rotation despite Chris Andersen returning from a one-game suspension.
- Pacers forward David West said he is feeling better after battling sickness the past two days. West had a 103-degree temperature the morning of Game 6. He said “keeping my vomit down” was the most difficult part of playing through the illness.
- Pacers center Roy Hibbert declined to answer questions about the gay slur he made following the Game 6 victory. He said he was only talking about basketball-related issues during the morning shootaround. The league fined him $75,000 for his comments on the interview podium following the Pacers’ 91-77 victory.
- Spoelstra said the emphasis remains on finding ways to get Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh more involved. Both have struggled throughout the series, especially Bosh. He’s averaged just 6.3 points the last three games of the series. Bosh said, “I changed my game (for) Games 1-6 and it hasn’t really worked. Tonight, I’m going to do what I do, let it all hang out.”
- Miami’s Chris Andersen not only will miss tonight’s game due to an NBA suspension for his confrontation with Indiana’s Tyler Hansbrough in Game 5, he faces mandatory suspensions if he commits any more flagrant fouls in the postseason. Andersen has three flagrant foul points, meaning any additional such violations will bring an automatic suspension for the following game.
- Joel Anthony will get first crack at Andersen’s minutes but won’t necessarily step right into his old role. “Everything’s on the table tonight and we won’t hesitate to make any decision based on the flow of the game,” said Miami Coach Erik Spoelstra. “Joel Anthony will get some of those minutes initially and he’s more than capable. We won a championship with him in that role last year. He’s been a starter for us, so this is not his first rodeo in this regard.” Anthony has made three appearances totaling seven minutes in the series.
- David West will be in his usual spot in the starting lineup for Indiana, but could be less than 100 percent. The veteran power forward was sent home from the morning shootaround with an upper respiratory infection and a fever. West has averaged 18.2 points and 8.4 rebounds in the series. “We’re not anticipating anything other than the fever broke and he’s going to play,” Pacers Coach Frank Vogel said. “We’ll play with the normal plan. If I see something or if I notice that he’s struggling then we’ll make decisions at that point but what’d Apollo Creed say in Rocky? ‘Don’t stop this fight.’ I think I’d have a hard time pulling him out of the game.”
- The teams have reversed roles, with Indiana leaning heavily on its Big Three while Miami has benefited from strong performances from a variety of sources. Roy Hibbert, Paul George and West have combined for 305 points, more than Miami’s LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh (288). But Miami has gotten big production in the last three games from role-players Udonis Haslem (39 points, 19-for-23 shooting) and Mario Chalmers (46 points, 15-for-32 shooting). Bosh has totaled 14 points in the last two games, while Wade has totaled 26 and has yet to score 20 in the series.
- Miami holds a 106-58 advantage in bench scoring in the series (an edge of 9.6 points per game). Indiana’s second unit has been outscored in 15 straight games by an average of 11.7 points.
- Conrad Brunner
- Both teams say will not let the flopping fines distributed Thursday morning affect their play tonight in Game 5. The Heat’s LeBron James and David West and Lance Stephenson of the Pacers were all fined $5,000 for their flops in Game 4. On the issue, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said, “We don’t want the attention or focus to be on the officiating. We want it to be on the competition, which is a great series.”
- Spoelstra said there are no plans on playing a bigger lineup despite being out-rebounded most of the series. The Heat are tired of letting the Pacers dictate the game. Of the Game 4 loss, Spoelstra, “We played their style, tried to beat them at their game.”
- The Pacers continue to harp on the Heat’s supposed “dirty” play, mainly forward Shane Battier. Roy Hibbert and David West maintain Battier has tried cheap shots throughout the series. Hibbert said, “Obviously I don’t like it but it’s a part of the game. I don’t want to look back and say I gave in to a dirty player.”
- Guard Lance Stephenson has been somewhat of the X-factor for the Pacers. He’s averaged 15 points in both wins compared to just seven in the losses. Spoelstra said accounting for Stephenson will be an emphasis tonight.
- If Indiana focuses its defensive strategy on either denying, doubling or giving extra early help against LeBron James in the post, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra believes it could open things up for other players. “LeBron had a very aggressive mentality down there (in Game 3),” he said. “If they do trap or try to get the ball out of his hands, we’ve seen that before. We just need to be poised. Hopefully that can shake free some of our other guys, as well.”
- While acknowledging the challenge James presents down low, Pacers Coach Frank Vogel said he didn’t want to overreact to Game 3 and make major changes to a defense that has been at or near the top of the league for most of the season. “We’ve got to do a better job on the ball, be more active with our helps and we’ve got to double him, at times,” Vogel said. “We’re not going to double him every time he touches the ball but we’ll look at some different things to see if we can break his rhythm some.”
- One of those “different things” apparently is not using the bigger, stronger David West against James in the post. Vogel said he had no such plans.
- While Indiana’s Paul George, West and Roy Hibbert have outscored Miami’s Big Three of James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh 190-188, Miami has gotten much more support from its role players. Chris Andersen has made all 13 of his shots off the bench, point guard Mario Chalmers has scored in double figures twice and power forward Udonis Haslem had a huge Game 3 with 17 points on 8-for-9 shooting. Aside from 10 points from Tyler Hansbrough in Game 1 and Lance Stephenson in Game 2, Indiana has gotten virtually nothing from its supporting cast.
- Much as Vogel expected Miami’s best shot – and got it – in Game 3, Spoelstra is bracing for an all-out performance by the Pacers. “We’ve been on both sides of it,” he said. “We know they’ll bring a desperate effort tonight in front of their home crowd. We just have to focus on the task. It will be a very highly competitive basketball game and we’ll have to play well. It’s not only about playing hard, like we did in Game 2; we have to play well.”
– Conrad Brunner