NBA on Sling: Pacers Take Aim at Limping Heat, Celtics Without Thomas in Battle Against Spurs

Dec 14, 2016 by Sling Staff

Indiana Pacers (13-12) vs Miami Heat (8-17)
7pm ET Wednesday on ESPN

Paul George and Myles Turner each scored a game-high 22 points on Monday to lead the Indiana Pacers to a 110-94 victory over the Charlotte Hornets. The Pacers’ shooters were on the mark, hitting 49% from the floor and 47% from downtown, while the Hornets starting five managed to sink just 17 of 53, 32%, thanks in part to 11 blocks by the Pacers. Indiana was without guard Monta Ellis, who’s battling a sore groin, and is expected to be out for at least a few more games. Glenn Robinson III started in his stead, scoring just 2 points, with 6 boards, 2 dimes, and 3 blocks, and generally playing tough on D, in a performance that already has the local media speculating that Ellis’ days in the starting five are numbered.

Wade’s gone. Bosh is essentially gone. Dion Waiters and his 14.2 ppg are sidelined with a groin tear. Forward Justise Winslow and his sprained wrist are on the bench… It’s hard days for the Miami Heat, but on Monday Goran Dragic threw the team on his back, scoring 34 points as they snapped a 5-game losing streak with a 112-101 victory over the Washington Wizards. Hassan Whiteside did his thing, grabbing 16 rebounds to go along with 17 points, nearly mirroring his season averages of 17.3 ppg and a league-leading 14.4 rpg. Along with injuries, the Heat have been plagued by terrible free throw shooting, ranking dead last at 67.3%. On the season, the Heat are making 3.1 fewer free throws per game than their opponents, and getting outscored overall by 3.2 points per game – learn to make their freebies and they could maybe get to .500.

Boston Celtics (13-11) vs San Antonio Spurs (19-5)
9:30pm ET Wednesday on ESPN

The Celtics came into the season full of hope. They were coming off a 48-win season, and had signed free agent center Al Horford to give them some muscle and length. But the team went 4-5 during an early stretch when Horford was hurt, and Jae Crowder missed 8 of those games; and spark plug and leading scorer Isaiah Thomas has missed the last 3 games with a pulled groin, with the C’s dropping the last 2. Monday’s loss to the Thunder was ugly, as the Celtics led by as much as 13 in the 3rd quarter, before OKC closed the gap with a 10-0 run that was capped by 6 straight points from Semaj Christon. The Thunder would tie the game three more times before finally taking the lead on Russell Westbrook field goal with 31 seconds to play. Boston somehow made it to the line just 8 times, making only 5, the lowest total by the team going back to 2008.

The Brooklyn Nets managed to hang in there for about 13 minutes on Saturday, as they trailed the Spurs 29-26 late in the first quarter. Then Patty Mills hit a 3. And Manu Ginobili hit a 3. And Kawhi Leonard hit a 3. and Dewayne Dedmon converted a 3-point play. And suddenly the Spurs were up 41-26 at the end of the quarter, and the 3-point shooting clinic was afoot. The Spurs would end up shooting better from beyond the arc, 53.8%, than inside it, just 52.9%. Leonard led all scorers with 30, with five other Spurs in double figures, and the team dished out a season-high 38 assists en route to a 130-101 win. Leonard’s among the best two-way players in the game, and the Spurs are the best-coached American sports team this side of the New England Patriots, but their rebounding edge is just +.2, and they don’t shoot well from inside the arc, only 48.7%, 17th in the NBA – even though they have the second-best record in the league, one wonders if they have the talent to make a run at the Warriors.

Watch the Pacers vs Heat at 7pm, followed by Celtics vs Spurs at 9:30pm ET Wednesday on ESPN by subscribing to Sling Orange

All stats courtesy ESPN and Basketball Reference.

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