After another listless performance last night in Minnesota, the Pacers' season-long lead in the East standings over defending champion Miami is now down to just two games (only one in the loss column). I took a look at what awaits both teams as they hit the stretch run over the next eight weeks or so:
Games left: 28 (12 Home/16 Road)
Games left against teams above .500: 11
Road games against teams above .500: 5
3+ game road trips: 1 (Charlotte-Houston-Dallas)
Toughest games remaining: Miami (2), at Houston, at Dallas, Golden State, San Antonio, Oklahoma City
Games left: 30 (17 Home/13 Road)
Games left against teams above .500: 12
Road games against teams above .500: 6
3+ game road trips: 2 (Houston-San Antonio-Chicago and Indiana-Detroit-Milwaukee)
Toughest games remaining: Indiana (2), at Oklahoma City, at Houston, at San Antonio, Portland
Indiana only has a dozen home games remaining over the final two months, while Miami plays in South Beach in 17 of their final 29 games after tonight’s trip to OKC. With both schedules appearing to be similar, home court advantage may come down to the results of the final two meetings between the teams - the Heat return to Indianapolis on March 29th, while the Pacers head to Miami in the regular season’s penultimate week (April 11th).
I've repeated it over and over again on the show, but I still feel that homecourt advantage could be the deciding factor in what was a coin-flip series last year. You can't ignore the fact that home teams are 90-23 all-time in Game 7s. The Pacers can't afford to let a golden opportunity for a big leg up in a potential Eastern Conference Finals meeting slip away.