On Wednesday night, the Indiana Pacers will begin their attempt to do what many feel is nearly impossible. They face the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals, as they try to upset arguably the best team in basketball.
Throughout the 2012-2013 season, the Heat have been the overwhelming favorite to reach the NBA Finals. That idea has continued into the playoffs, as Miami handily swept the Milwaukee Bucks and dismantled the Chicago Bulls in five games. Now, the Pacers will try to take four games from the team that only had 16 losses in the regular season.
Game One is set to get underway at 8:30 p.m. ET at American Airlines Arena. The contest will air on TNT, but viewers can watch a free live stream online with TNT Overtime. Every game of the series is scheduled to air on TNT at the same time.
Indiana enters their third-round series with a lot of confidence after their second-round series win over the New York Knicks. Pacers head coach Frank Vogel made headlines, days before the two teams even met on the court, when it was falsely reported that he called the defending champs “just another team.” LeBron James didn’t take kindly to the alleged statement, indicating Indiana might not be prepared to take on Miami.
James has been terrific in the playoffs, averaging 24 points, 7.3 rebounds and 7.3 assists in nine postseason games. Paul George will be given the task of covering the MVP. George’s defense was instrumental in helping the Pacers beat the Knicks in six games. He played a large part in holding Carmelo Anthony to 43.3 percent shooting from the field.
While James’s regular season play has carried over to the playoffs, the same can’t be said for Dwyane Wade. The shooting guard has been held to less than 20 points in all but one playoff game. He’s battling a knee injury and will be ready to play, but it may be something that hinders him until the offseason.
Despite his decreased production, Wade’s experience could be an important factor. He, like every Heat player that has gotten playoff minutes, has been here before. For Indiana, backup center Ian Mahinmi is the only one with any experience in the conference finals.
The Pacers, do, however, have a recent postseason history with the Heat. They took Miami to six games in last year’s second-round, holding a 2-1 series lead, at one point. They have been competitive with the Heat this year, as well, beating them two out of three times in the regular season.
The Pacers eliminated the Knicks on Saturday, while the Heat haven’t played in a week. The extra rest may have hurt Miami in Game One of their series with Chicago, as they inexplicably dropped that contest in front of their home fans. The bookmakers, though, don’t seem to foresee a problem on Wednesday. The Heat are an eight-point favorite, according to most Las Vegas casinos.
Prediction: Miami 95, Indiana 85