Basketball News Services
Over the regular season the Miami Heat had the third-best home record in the Eastern Conference, behind only Indiana and Detroit with 29 victories, but the worst road record of any playoff team, with only 13 victories. In five road games so far this postseason, the Heat haven't won once. But in their four home games so far this postseason, they haven't lost once. The silver lining in being down 2-0 to the Indiana Pacers after a 91-80loss on Saturday is that they get to come home to Miami tonight, and finally have the building and the fans on their side. Tonight in Miami, the prediction is sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows.
Perhaps no player will be happier to see the 20,000 fans wearing black than Eddie Jones, the Heat's top scorer for the past four seasons. Head coach Stan Van Gundy has finally started to express some disappointment with his elusive guard, who is averaging 6.5 points so far this series. Van Gundy ran 16 plays for Jones in the second game, and didn't get a lot out of it.
Of course, that's not to put too much of the blame on Jones. There was another team involved, one which knew who the leading Heat scorer was, and tried its best to deny him the ball, deny him good looks, and deny him his points.
The Pacers have essentially shut down Jones, but they did it in Indiana. Can they keep Jones from exploding tonight?
Can anybody keep Jones from exploding tonight?
In home games during the regular season, Jones shot a better percentage both overall and from behind the three-point arc. As teammate Lamar Odom says, they know these rims, and how they bounce. It's home.
At home, too, the defense Jones plays somehow intensifies. He averages nearly 33% more steals per game at home than on the road, and half again as many blocks.
Tonight, it is Eddie Jones's night. Van Gundy may be reluctant to run plays for him at first but once he sees how effective Jones is, he will ride his shoulders all the way to the end.
Even if Jones doesn't light up the scoreboard for 40 points, the Heat will do well to remember that it was against the Pacers that Jones averaged 5.3 assists per game in the regular season. The only other team that Jones averaged as many assists against was: the New Orleans Hornets.
And we know what happened to them when they came to town.
The Heat's playoff run continues tomorrow, Saturday, May 8th, at 7:00 p.m. EDT/6:00 p.m. CDT on ESPN and the Sunshine station. The complete playoff schedule is as follows:
1 - Miami (81) @ INDIANA (94)
2 - Miami (80) @ INDIANA (91)
3 - Indiana @ Miami - Monday, May 10th - 8:00 p.m. EDT/7:00 p.m. CDT on TNT
4 - Indiana @ Miami - Wednesday, May 12th - 8:00 p.m. EDT/7:00 p.m. CDT on ESPN
5 - Miami @ Indiana - Saturday, May 15th - TBA (if needed) on TNT
6 - Indiana @ Miami - Tuesday, May 18th - 8:00 p.m. EDT/7:00 p.m. CDT (if needed) on ESPN
7 - Miami @ Indiana - Thursday, May 20th - TBA (if needed) on ESPN
Carol Butler got yet another steal in Saturday's game, extending his streak of playoff games with at least one steal to nine. That ties the franchise record set by Dan Majerle.
Nothing to report.
The Miami Heraldwrites: Indiana has won 67 of 88 games this season, including six straight by double figures in the playoffs -- a record. This is the best basketball team on Earth at the moment, until anybody else proves otherwise. Three years ago, they were 42-40. Just like the Heat was this season. Except that the Pacers were eliminated in the first round then, whereas Miami slugged past New Orleans to accelerate its basketball education. Jermaine O'Neal was not Jermaine O'Neal three years ago. Lamar Odom, still ascending, could be Jermaine O'Neal. Ron Artest was not Ron Artest three years ago. Caron Butler, same body, same game, could be Ron Artest. Three years ago the Pacers were a .500-type team, and grew into this bona fide championship contender. So can the Heat.
Curtis Eichelberger ofBloomberg News writes: Only the wealthy need apply. The National Basketball Association's Heat charge a minimum $500,000 per season for a block of six seats on the floor of Miami's American Airlines Arena next to coach Stan Van Gundy... The Miami Heat recognized the importance of proximity and created a ``Starbox'' package of six courtside seats between the scorer's table and the bench. They come with an 800-square-foot (74-square-meter) suite next to the players' locker room under the stands, indoor parking, and a pass to enter the arena through the players' entrance, where they can rub elbows with the stars. ``Their seat is basically an extension of the bench -- they're three feet from the coach,'' said Steve Weber, 41, the team's senior vice president of sales. ``If they were any closer, we'd have to give them a uniform.''
Steve Gorten ofThe South Florida Sun-Sentinelwrites: Heat coach Stan Van Gundy said he isn't concerned about individual matchups, but there's obvious frustration over guard Eddie Jones' offensive output the first two games -- 13 points combined.While counterpart Reggie Miller scored 19 points in Game 2, the Heat's leading scorer the past four regular seasons scored nine and took just six shots even though the Heat ran 16 plays for him.
Harvey Fialkov ofThe South Florida Sun-Sentinelwrites: Throughout its second-half surge and a remarkable 16-game home winning streak, the Heat has considered the crowd at AmericanAirlines Arena its sixth man.The problem is, six men may not be enough against a formidable Pacers squad that contains seven reserves who could start on most teams. So even if more than 20,000 boisterous Heat fans show up decked out in black, waving their rally rags and clicking their clackers, Miami must execute its half-court and transition offense better than it has in the first two games (0-2) of this Eastern Conference semifinal.
Jay Marrioti ofThe Chicago Sun-Times writes: ''Last Rookie Standing,'' a banner read the other night.It was held proudly -- and bravely -- in an arena filled with Indiana Pacers fans by Siohvaughn Wade, his high-school-sweetheart-turned-wife. And while such displays are met sheepishly by Dwyane, who's as grounded and understated as any emerging star athlete you'll meet, there is no denying the obvious. LeBron may have the cool shoe, the megamillions and the Rookie of the Year trophy, but his team didn't make the playoffs. Carmelo may have the magazine covers and hot-selling jersey, but his team was quickly ousted from the postseason. That makes Wade the rookie with the most impact related to his team's success, the one whose buzzer-beating shots and brilliant performances for the Miami Heat have elevated him this postseason to a higher plateau than his more-hyped brethren.
The Seattle Times News Serviceswrites: It certainly will get louder than it did the last time the Pacers were there. In their only appearance, on Jan. 5, the Pacers were greeted by a crowd listed, generously, at 14,553. The Heat is expecting more than 20,000 tonight."You know, Boston's high-style, Detroit's high-style, so it's going to be just like that," said Artest, who gave the Heat crowd his middle finger in January 2003. "It's hard to really worry about it. It's fun for the fans. It's fun for the 10 guys on the court, and everybody's coming to see you. But there's a time when you got to put that aside. All we're thinking about is winning."
Israel Gutierrez ofThe Miami Herald writes: Given the Heat's history in Conseco Fieldhouse of late, Dwyane Wade knew he wasn't going to get many foul calls in his favor in Game 2 on Saturday. That's why the rookie took the near-silent approach when it came to the officials.''You yelling to the refs isn't going to do anything but get them mad at you,'' Wade said. ``I just tried to keep my mouth shut and play. ``I try to tell them, if I'm going to miss a layup, I got hit somewhere. Hopefully next year I will gain the respect, and I will get more calls than this year.''