It’s rare to hear a player speak openly about wanting to exacerbate another player’s health problem.
So it was somewhat surprising when Lance Stephenson today told reporters of Dwyane Wade: “I think his knee is kind of messed up, so I got to be extra aggressive and make him run and have him running around and make his knee flare up or something.” The quote was circulated on Twitter by a reporter for the team's own web site.
Wade, who met with reporters before Stephenson’s comment, has said his knees are not causing him any problems this postseason.
Stephenson said he has no personal issue with Wade. "If I see D-Wade walking down the street, I won't try to get him," he told the Indianapolis Star.
Stephenson also said today: “We’re better [than last year]. We’re smarter. We got more talented players. I think we’re ready this time. And we’ve got to show it. Not talk about it. Show it.”
Despite their struggles in postseason, including a 3-4 record at home, Pacers forward Paul George said: “We’re a better team” than a year ago. “This team ended our season early two times in a row so there’s got to be an edge to come out and take this team out.”
He attributed Indiana’s struggles in March and April to being “fatigued out mentally, emotionally, physically.”
### With Udonis Haslem expected to replace Shane Battier in the starting lineup, the Heat’s top eight players in this series seem set. The question is who will get remaining minutes among Battier, James Jones, Rashard Lewis and perhaps Greg Oden.
Toney Douglas is also available. Michael Beasley could join Justin Hamilton on the inactive list if Erik Spoelstra opts to keep Oden available because of Indiana’s size.
“This series is about the top eight,” Jones said. “We need them to perform. Players nine through 15, we complement.”
### Indiana has one fewer irritant than it did in last year’s series, because Tyler Hansbrough now plays for Toronto. But Stephenson can try to get under opponents’ skin.
“They don’t get under our skin,” Chris Bosh said. “Nobody on that team does. If they’re trying to get under ours, they’ll get under their own skin before it happens with us. There are no mind games to play in this series. We’ve been through that before. I’m sure they’ll try something different.”
### Turnovers have often been the Pacers’ undoing against the Heat. Indiana had 121 turnovers in last year’s seven-game Eastern Conference Finals against the Heat, compared to the Heat’s 82.
This season, the Pacers had 65 in the four games; Miami had 52. The Pacers committed the 10th-most turnovers in the league this season, at 14.5 per game.
### Roy Hibbert was fourth in the league in blocked shots per game (2.25), posing challenges for players when they attack the basket.
“You can’t let that really affect you,” Dwyane Wade said. “You do want to drive. You don’t want [Hibbert’s presence] to deter what you do because if you are driving, knowing he’s going to come and help, someone is going to be open.
“More so than the drive, it’s about the finish. If he’s there, you’ve got to be smart and understand you can’t just jump and catapult your body into him. Maybe LeBron can and get away with it because athleticism is his strength."
But shortly before Wade spoke, James said: “You don’t want to throw your body in there recklessly, without a thought process.”
### The Heat and Pacers have been the NBA’s best “clutch” teams in postseason, according to NBA.com’s statistical analysis. In the final five minutes of games with a margin of five or fewer, Indiana has outscored its opponents by 27 points in 20 postseason minutes. Miami is plus 12 in 11 minutes.
### Spoelstra and Heat players said they can’t take much from studying the games when Indiana struggled this postseason.
“We know what team we can expect,” Spoelstra said. “The only thing that matters is how they played against us. They played very good basketball against us.”
### One constant in the James/George matchup: James has been significantly more efficient. In the four games this season, James shot 54 percent when George was also on the floor, George 43 percent. That disparity also has been sizable in their playoff meetings.
### Mark Jackson, recently fired from his coaching job with the Golden State Warriors, returned to ABC/ESPN with a multiyear contract on Saturday and will join Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy on the call of the Heat-Pacers series as well as the NBA Finals.