|Heat, Pacers meet coming off wins|
MIAMI -- They say timing is everything, and if that's true, Sunday's game between the Indiana Pacers and the Miami Heat just got more interesting.
Both the Heat (7-8) and Pacers (8-8) came up with impressive wins on Friday night, beating teams ahead of them in the Eastern Conference standings.
Miami, which has won six straight home games against Indiana, defeated the Washington Wizards, building a 25-point lead before holding on for a 91-88 victory.
Indiana won the opposite way, starting slowly but finishing strong, overcoming a 22-point deficit in a 107-100 win over the red-hot Detroit Pistons.
"Tonight you saw a team that didn't give up," Pacers coach Nate McMillan told the Indianapolis Star after Indiana's comeback win. "(We) battled and flipped the switch on Detroit."
The Heat looked bad down the stretch, but they were not about to give this win back, especially when they held Washington Wizards star point guard John Wall to just eight points.
"Our defense is tighter, and our penetrators are getting in the paint," said Heat center Hassan Whiteside when asked by Sun Sports for the key to the victory that snapped a two-game losing streak. "We are not settling for jump shots."
Whiteside was huge for Miami, posting his seventh double-double in just 10 games this season. He had 22 points, 16 rebounds and two blocks, making 10 of 12 shots from the floor.
"Hassan came to play, and that started with film study and practice," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra told the media. "He's getting better every week, and he is proving it with his play."
While the Heat were beating Washington, Indiana was relying on reserve guard Lance Stephenson, who scored all 13 points of his points in the fourth quarter against Detroit.
"I just wanted to win so bad," Stephenson said after his big finish.
The Pacers outscored Detroit 36-19 in the fourth quarter, making 6 of 7 3-pointers.
Shooting guard Victor Oladipo, new to the Pacers this season, was another key against the Pistons, posting 21 points, 15 rebounds, four assists, one steal and one block in a stellar 39-minute, all-around effort.
Oladipo leads Indiana in scoring (23.1), and he now prepares for his matchup against Heat shooting guard Dion Waiters (16.3). Both are 6-foot-4, and both are 25 years old. Oladipo is having the better season so far, but Waiters is a very proud player who won't back down from a challenge.
Whiteside (16.3 points, 14.1 rebounds) against Pacers center Myles Turner (13.0 points, 8.0 rebounds) could be a featured matchup as well. Turner has scored in double figures in six of the seven games he has played since returning from a concussion.
At point guard, Miami's Goran Dragic is the better scorer (19.0). But Indiana's Darren Collison (13.0 scoring average) ranks fourth in the NBA in assist-to-turnover ratio (4.5).
Bench play will likely be a major factor, too.
Miami's James Johnson, one of the key players in that Heat bench brigade, snapped out of a recent slump by scoring 20 points against Washington on Friday. He also had five rebounds and four assists in 31 minutes.
"That wasn't my character the past few games," Johnson told the media when asked about his recent slump.
Spoelstra said he was impressed that Johnson "stepped in front of all of you (the media) and took responsibility (for Miami's uneven play of late). He didn't need to do that, but that's a great sign of leadership."
Both teams are relatively healthy.
Indiana is without 6-7 depth forward Glenn Robinson III, who is a good 3-point shooter but is out until at least until mid-February due to surgery on his left ankle.
Miami is without depth forwards Rodney McGruder and Okaro White.