MIAMI (AP) Winning consecutive games at home for the first time all season isn’t exactly something to celebrate, particularly when the season is nearly two months old.
For the Miami Heat, it’s a start.
Hassan Whiteside had 26 points and 22 rebounds, and the Heat clamped down defensively to beat the Indiana Pacers 95-89 on Wednesday night. Miami held the Pacers to 37 percent shooting and outrebounded them 58-38.
”Guess that’s what you can expect with a Heat-Pacers game, regardless of who the faces are,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. ”It was good for us to grind out another one.”
No, this wasn’t one of those playoff battles with the Pacers that featured LeBron James and Dwyane Wade almost always finding a way for the Heat in recent years. This time, it was the likes of Tyler Johnson and James Johnson coming up big, combining for 29 points off the bench – and Whiteside simply controlling the paint during his 34 minutes.
”I try to lead by example,” Whiteside said.
Paul George scored 22 for the Pacers, who were hoping for a season-best third straight win and instead managed just 10 points in the fourth quarter. CJ Miles added 15 for Indiana.
”This is a game that we should have won,” George said. ”It’s frustrating. … We played OK. We just didn’t finish well.”
Neither team led by more than seven, and the Heat got to that margin after James Johnson found Goran Dragic for a layup and a 92-85 lead with 3:35 left.
They needed to hang on desperately from there.
Miami didn’t score again until there were 12.9 seconds left, when Josh Richardson sealed the win with a dunk that put the Heat up five after Indiana didn’t foul. The Pacers missed three 3-point tries that would have tied the game in the final 2 minutes, one by George and the last two by Myles Turner.
The Pacers shot 5 for 18 in the fourth. They went scoreless over a 7-minute stretch in the second half, and Miami took the lead for good during that drought.
”They basically muscled us and broke our offensive execution,” Pacers coach Nate McMillan said.
Pacers: Monta Ellis (right groin strain) was sidelined again, and Rodney Stuckey played through a bruised left knee. … This was the start of Indiana’s sixth of 17 back-to-backs this season. … George has played 19 games at Miami, including playoffs. Indiana’s record in those games is 2-17.
Heat: It was the fourth time Whiteside reached 20 points and 20 rebounds in the same game, the second this season. … Justise Winslow returned from a 16-game absence due to a sore left wrist and scored two points in 21 minutes. … Dragic missed his first seven shots before connecting on a pull-up for his first basket early in the third quarter. He shot 4 for 15. … Dion Waiters (groin) missed his 10th consecutive game.
Miami’s women’s basketball team – No. 13 in this week’s AP Top 25 – was at the game, along with coach Katie Meier. For some, it was their first time at a Heat game. ”They were so excited,” said Meier, whose team next plays Friday at Florida International.
Indiana came into the night as the league’s fourth-best team at the foul line, Miami as the very worst. The Pacers went 14 for 17, the Heat 14 for 25.
Pacers: Visit New Orleans on Thursday, the second game in a three-game, four-day trip.
Heat: Host the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday, the third game on this six-game homestand.