MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Despite posting just a 9-8 record in the month of March, Miami has a chance to do something not many thought was possible a few weeks ago, move into first place in the Eastern Conference.
If the Heat beat the Raptors at home Monday night, and Indiana loses to the San Antonio Spurs Monday; the Heat will take over first place for the first time since the beginning of the season. But Miami can’t take anything for granted Monday as the Heat has struggled trying to get past the Pacers.
Miami is just 2-5 after Indiana loses in March. If the Heat could flip the proverbial playoff switch, Miami could put some distance between themselves and the struggling Pacers.
Indiana has managed to score fewer than 80 points in four of its last five games and looks both fatigued and disinterested with just a few weeks to go until the playoffs started. The Pacers have been the top team in the East all season long, but have run into a wall in recent weeks.
Indiana is just 2-5 in its last seven games including two straight blowout losses to the Washington Wizards and Cleveland Cavaliers. Now Indiana must travel to San Antonio to battle a streaking Spurs team.
San Antonio has the best record in the NBA and has won 17 straight with a trip to Indiana Monday night. Overall, the Spurs are 29-8 at home and 28-8 on the road for a 57-16 overall record this season.
But make no mistake, for the Pacers, getting home court advantage is crucial after the all-out effort the team has put into the season. Indiana’s home-away record shows that the team is almost a Jekyll and Hyde depending on where they’re playing.
At home, Indiana sports a league-best 33-4 mark in the current season. On the road, it’s a completely different story with the Pacers just one game over .500 at 19-18 on the season.
If Miami manages to put together enough wins to secure home court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs, it would be a devastating blow to Indiana.
Looking ahead, Miami has the Raptors Monday followed by the Timberwolves, Knicks, and Brooklyn Nets all at home. Miami takes a trip to Memphis on April 9 and then returns home for what could be the showdown to determine home court advantage on April 11 against Indiana.
Indiana gets the Spurs and Pistons back to back at home before heading to Tornoto, back home against the Hawks, and then on the road against Miami.
Both teams would like to rest their starters ahead of the playoffs, but it will be interesting to see if either does when April 11 rolls around. It will likely be a preview of the Eastern Conference finals, assuming both teams make it that far.
Regardless, Indiana and Miami are on a collision course and the only thing left to decide is which team will get one extra home game if they need it.