The Miami Heat were able to bounce back from a demoralizing loss to the New Orleans Pelicans by besting the slumping Portland Trail Blazers on Monday night, 93-91. This victory was a tad more important for the Heat because the Indiana Pacers simultaneously lost to the Chicago Bulls that same night, bringing the defending champs within a game of the Pacers in the loss column.
Both teams will face off on Wednesday night, and because of where each team currently sits in the standings, this game has taken on significant importance. The victor of the battle will determine who ultimately grabs control of the No. 1 seed in the East. Both teams have moderate schedules down the stretch, playing 6-7 teams above the .500 mark, and due to how poorly each team has been playing down the stretch, it’s only fair to assume each team will drop a few games, especially against the “lesser” competition.
The Pacers currently have a slight edge over the Heat with a record of 51-20, but if the defending champs are able to pull out a win in Banker’s Life Fieldhouse Arena Wednesday night, they will tie the Pacers in the loss column and could wind up stealing the top seed from them overall. This would be extremely demoralizing for the Pacers, as they have made it well known from the beginning of the season that attaining home-court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference Playoffs is their top priority.
The Pacers are still touting the league’s best defense, while the Heat’s has slowly been slipping off the NBA map in terms of caliber. It will take another huge team defensive effort from the Heat, very similar to the one used against the Trail Blazers, in order to frustrate the Pacers’ offense, which isn’t exactly the most proficient in the league. Wednesday night’s game will be a battle, so expect a very close final score. By the final buzzer, we should ultimately know who will claim the East’s top crown.