The Miami Heat will take on the Indiana Pacers Wednesday night in what is arguably their biggest game of the season thus far.
The first step to the Heat winning the game is having their starters available and on the court. It appears as of now that they will have that after playing shorthanded on Monday. Dwyane Wade is battling an Achilles injury but expects to play per ESPN. Greg Oden who played a season high 15 minutes on Monday will likely start as well. This will be an important game for Oden as he will go up against Roy Hibbert. The Pacers' center has struggled as of late but remains an imposing force in the paint.
Entering the contest, the Heat trail the Pacers by one game in the loss column which is ultimately the column that will matter most. A win by the Heat would bring them to within one game of the top seed in the Eastern Conference with 12 games left to play. A loss by the Heat however could be the end of their dreams of capturing the top seed. Making up that much ground in a dozen games would be very difficult, even with one more scheduled against Indiana.
Indiana and Miami will be the top two seeds in the East barring something unforeseen, the only question is what order they will be in. As the two teams are expected by most to reach the Conference Finals, home court advantage could end up being the deciding factor on who wins. If a glance is taken at the NBA standings, the home records immediately stand out for both teams. Indiana is 32-4 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse while Miami is 28-6 at the American Airlines Arena. Further proving the value of home court, the Pacers and Heat have split their contests this year with each team winning at home.
Often times, teams will downplay one game as being "just another game" but this is clearly more than just another game for the two teams. James said as much via the Heat's official Twitter account:
.@KingJames on playing the Pacers: "It's a big game. We're not going to shy away from it. It's going to be a good test for us."
— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) March 25, 2014
Wednesday's game will be televised nationally on ESPN at 8:00 p.m. and will likely come down to the final buzzer. The two teams will match up again in Miami on April 11th.