Chances are good that if any member of the media ask any of the players or coaches of the Miami Heat if game three of their Eastern Conference semi-final series against the Indiana Pacers is a “must win” for the franchise; the reply would be a definitive no. There would be statements that the contest is taking place far too early in the series for it to be a critical game and mathematically speaking they would be correct. However Thursday night’s contest that will take place at Bankers Life Fieldhouse; might be the most important game of the series in terms of sending a message for both clubs.
The Heat lost home-court advantage in the series on Tuesday night as the Pacers defeated them in Miami by a final margin of 78-75, as the defending Eastern Conference Champions could not compensate for the loss of power forward Chris Bosh, who went down with a strained abdominal muscle in game one and may be out for the series. If the team loses the next two games in Indiana, they would return to Miami trailing 3-1 in the series, with their backs against the wall. They need to take at least one of the next two contests to avoid that fate and there will be far more pressure on the squad to win game four if they can not pull out a victory on Thursday night.
For many of those same reasons, the Pacers are hoping to win the first game on their home-court in this series; especially to prove to Miami that their victory on Tuesday night was not a fluke. They are hoping to intimidate their opponents with the strength of their front-court with big numbers from David West at the four and Roy Hibbert in the center position. LeBron James admitted that playing at power forward in game two was exhausting; the more energy he has to use guarding West the less he will have for scoring.
It would be a deflating experience for Indiana if they gave back the home-court advantage to their opponents 48 hours after capturing it. Consequently; it would most likely throw the Heat into a tizzy as they look for answers to pull out a victory on Sunday when the two teams meet again to play game four of the match-up. The more Miami panics, the further they will get away from what got them the second best record in the Eastern Conference; most likely leading to Dwyane Wade and James trying to win in a game of two on five.
Bottom line is for both teams winning Thursday night’s contest would be a great psychological boost, that could set the tone for the rest of the series and could make for a far different Eastern Conference Final series than anyone was expecting a month ago,