Miami does not have Udonis Haslem Thursday night, suspended for his hard foul on Tyler Hansbrough last game.
Danny Granger will be out on the court for Indiana but playing with an ankle he described as swollen like a small softball.
These are serious setbacks for both teams and how they deal with it — whichever team has its guys step up — will win Game 6.
That may be harder for the Pacers, which is bad news because down 3-2 this is an elimination game for them. Larry Bird described the Pacers as soft after last game and if they play anything like that again on Thursday they will be golfing Friday.
Granger is key at both ends of the court — the Pacers were -21 last game after Granger landed on LeBron James’ foot and rolled his ankle, taking him out of that game.
We still find out early how well Granger is moving — look for the Heat to try and isolate him on LeBron James (Granger’s primary defensive assignment this series). LeBron will (or at least should) go right at him. Not pull up for the jumper if Granger lays off, drive and see how he moves. If it’s not well expect the Heat to go at him all night.
That will put more pressure on Roy Hibbert, who has to protect the rim and paint but without picking up fouls.
Miami needs to do this to get James going — without the threat of Haslem to spread the floor and add scoring it’s going to be harder for the Heat to get points, particularly in the half court. James, Dwyane Wade and other guys — Shane Battier, Mike Miller — need to knock down jumpers in the half court because the Pacers will pack the paint.
Miami will want to run and if they can use pressure defense to create opportunities to get Wade and James in the open court they can run away with this game. Like they have the last two. Indiana has to slow the pace again.
Indiana needs someone to step up with a huge game on the perimeter — Darren Collison, George Hill and Paul George need to have good nights. David West needs a monster night inside. The Heat have nobody who can stop Hibbert, feed the man the rock.
There are no secrets left in this series, just a lot of bad blood. It feels like a playoff series. It feels like a war of attrition.
The Pacers need to play their best game or it will be their last this season. But right now the Heat are vulnerable, win this and in a Game 7 anything can happen.