Pacers vs. Heat Preview: 4-1 Indiana Squad Take Their Talents to South Beach

G. HealyCorrespondent IIJanuary 4, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS - FEBRUARY 15: LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat is guarded by Danny Granger #33 of the Indiana Pacers during the NBA game at Conseco Fieldhouse on February 15, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana.   The Heat won 110-103.   NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The 4-1 Indiana Pacers travel to Miami to take on the 5-1 Heat tonight. The Pacers come into the game fresh off a high-scoring win over the New Jersey Nets

Miami comes into the contest looking to bounce back after suffering their first loss of the season against the Atlanta Hawks.

Let's take a look at some of the story lines heading into tonight's matchup and discuss some of the keys to a Pacers victory.


Can the Pacers stop Dwyane Wade?

In the past four meetings between the Pacers and Heat, Dwyane Wade has two 40-point games. Wade is coming off a pedestrian 4-for-17 shooting performance, with only 12 points scored in the loss to the Hawks.

With his penchant for putting up large numbers against the Pacers, this might be just what the doctor ordered.

4:40 PM UPDATE: is reporting:

"The Miami Heat will likely be without star guard Dwyane Wade for Wednesday night's home game against the Indiana Pacers because of a lingering foot injury."


Can Paul George continue to step up?

Paul George is coming off a big game against the Nets. He was able to rack up 21 points and was a perfect 5-for-5 from three-point range. For the Pacers to remain competitive against the top teams in the league, George will need to continue to shoot at a high level and play solid defense.

Prior to his big night in New Jersey, he put up two lackluster performances. Consistency will be a big challenge for the second-year guard. Tonight's game in Miami is a great opportunity to showcase his progress against one of the best teams in the league.


Are reinforcements emerging for the Pacers?

The Pacers have done an outstanding job of not letting injuries affect their early-season performances. As the season progresses, however, they need to be at full strength.

Indications are Jeff Foster might be about ready to start suiting up this season and contributing. Having been out all season with a tweaked back, Foster's presence would help out significantly and take some pressure off of West, Hibbert and Hansbrough.


Are the Pacers ready for the big time?

Let's face it. The Nets, Pistons, Cavaliers and Raptors are not the Miami Heat. While the Pacers have played solid basketball thus far, they haven't been tested by a team that is better than them on paper. Based on their schedule, the Pacers could easily be 5-0 heading into this matchup.

A solid performance tonight would turn heads around the NBA. Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh are going to be a tough matchup for these Pacers. Sooner or later, though, if you are going to be big-time, you need to win big-time games.

Tonight's matchup in Miami is the perfect stage for the Pacers to take that next step.


Notes and Tidbits:

Miami has won six out of the last seven games against the Pacers.

Despite shooting over 52 percent Monday night, the Pacers remain at the bottom of the league in shooting percentage, shooting only 41 percent. To the contrary, Miami is the top team in this category, shooting at 51 percent.

LeBron James comes into tonight's matchup as the league's top scorer averaging 29.9 points per game through six games.

The game tonight will be played at the American Airlines Arena in Miami and tip-off is at 7:30 PM.