Erik Spoelstra hints that Indiana Pacers missing Tyrese Haliburton may have hurt Miami Heat in unexpected fashion

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Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

The Indiana Pacers were without star guard Tyrese Haliburton for their matchup with the Miami Heat on Saturday, but the Pacers were still able to pull out a 144-129 victory.

Usually, a team missing a star player would be a good thing for its opponent, but in this case, it might have had the opposite effect. After the game, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra explained how Haliburton’s absence may have actually hurt the Heat.

“You have to credit Indiana,” Spoelstra said. “You take out their best player who drives this offense and they didn’t slow down one bit. We got up 8, 10 points and subconsciously, we probably thought it would be a little bit easier and thought they might slow down.

“That second unit sped this thing up even more, got into such a great groove. Whatever the situation was, we couldn’t contain the ball on the dribble, we could never stay in front of the ball.”

Spoelstra felt that the Heat had been playing better basketball defensively as of late but wasn’t happy with his team’s play on that side of the ball against Indiana on Saturday.

“We were rotating and not getting to the second offense player,” he said. “It was one of our worst ball containment games of the season. And they made shots. You score close to 130 points, you are not expecting for the Heat to lose a game. Our defense had been trending in a better direction.”

Spoelstra’s frustration is understandable. The 144 points that Indiana scored in the contest equals the second-most ever surrendered in a game by Miami. Also, the Pacers shot 65.9 percent from the field, the highest ever by an opponent of the Heat.

Bruce Brown led the way for Indiana with 30 points, and Obi Toppin added 22 points of his own. In all, four different Pacers players scored 20-plus points, and six scored in double figures. It was an impressive performance for a team missing its top player.

A large part of the problem for Miami’s defense in the matchup was the absence of Bam Adebayo, who missed the game as a result of a nagging hip injury. Adebayo is Miami’s best defensive player, and life is certainly tougher without him.

Miami has now lost four of its last five games and sits seventh in the Eastern Conference with a record of 11-9. Nearly a quarter of the way into the season, Jimmy Butler thinks the Heat are currently “mediocre,” and given how the standings look, his description may be pretty accurate.

“We stand right where we don’t want to be, which is very mediocre, not good, not bad, not great, not any of those things,” Butler said.

“Just mediocre. You talk about our offense has been mediocre. You talk about our defense has been mediocre. That’s the word I would use.”

The Heat will look to get back on track when they square off against Pascal Siakam, Scottie Barnes and the Toronto Raptors at Scotiabank Arena on Wednesday night.

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Michael is an experienced writer and reporter who has been covering the NBA since before LeBron James decided to take his talents to South Beach. He wore No. 41 on his high school basketball team partly because of Glen Rice's days as a sharpshooter for the Heat, and he is still a proponent of the midrange game.