Heat coach Spoelstra expects physical battle against Pacers
Miami, FL, United States (AHN Sports) – Heat coach Erik Spoelstra expects a physical battle when his team faces the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference semifinals which begins Sunday at the American Airlines Arena in Miami.
“This next series, I’m sure, will feel like it’s played in a cage rather than on a basketball court,” Spoelstra said following Miami’s win over the Knicks. “It’ll be that physical.”
The Heat defeated the Knicks, 104-96 Wednesday behind LeBron James’ 29 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, to finish the series at 4-1.
On Tuesday, the Pacers eliminated the Dwight Howard-less Orlando Magic, 105-87, in Game 5 to clinch the semifinal berth.
Pacers’ coach Frank Vogel took a shot at the Heat during practice Thursday, calling them the “biggest flopping team” in the league.
“They are the biggest flopping team in the NBA,” Vogel said. “It’ll be very interesting how the referees officiate the series and how much flopping they reward.”
With Heat forwards Udonis Haslem and Shane Battier manning the shaded area, the Heat drew the fourth-most charges in the NBA during the regular season.
“Every drive to the basket, they have guys not making a play on the ball, but sliding in front of drivers,” Vogel said. “Oftentimes they’re falling down even before contact is even being made. It’ll be interesting to see how the series is officiated.”
The Pacers are one of the hottest teams in the league, winning 14 of their last 17 games dating back to April.
Indiana defeated the Heat in their last meeting by 15 points but the Heat have the upper hand in their head-to-head matches, winning three of their four meetings by a total of 52 points.
The Heat will be spearheaded by James, who is averaging 27.8 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.2 assists in five playoff games.
Danny Granger has been phenomenal for the Pacers in the postseason, bringing his game to another level with a 21.4 points average from just 18.7 points per game in the regular season.