The Miami Heat hosts the Indiana Pacers in Game 1 on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. EST. A live stream online of the game is available here.
The Heat are coming off an easy series win over the New York Knicks in five games, while the Pacers knocked off the Orlando Magic in five. Miami has really stepped up its game of late, especially recently crowned NBA MVP LeBron James.
James has finally become more comfortable at guiding his team in end-of-game situations and is supremely focused on finally winning his first NBA title.
Heat Nation, we have a bigger goal, James said in a speech on Saturday. This is very overwhelming to me as an individual award. But this is not the award I want, ultimately. I want that championship. That's all that matters to me.
Miami will have its hands full with a swaggering Indiana team that isn't opposed to ruffling some feathers. Pacers coach Frank Vogel was fined $15,000 for saying that Heat players purposely flop to get calls. Vogel has his team ready to wage a physical war against a Heat team that isn't known for its physical play.
It's going to be a more physical series, Chris Bosh told reporters. There will be a lot of fouls drawn, but we can't worry about foul trouble. Of course, we can't just foul them. Free throws are a huge part of their offensive efficiency. So we're going to have to have a fine balance between both. We'll have to use our fouls wisely but try not to foul in the act of shooting.
In the regular season the Heat won two of three games against the Pacers in the regular season, though the last time the two teams met the Pacers came out victorious. The Pacers have won 16 of their last 20 games and are ready to prove their place among the Eastern Conference elite.
I think this is what we all live for, Danny Granger said. Big stage, big moment, playing a team that everybody talks about. It's definitely the place you want to be. ... I don't know if it's about respect. It's about basketball. It's about finding out who's the better team. We're a good team. They're a good team. It's going to be a battle.
Granger, the Pacers' leading scorer, will be crucial to the team's success against the Heat. Not only will Granger be tasked with carrying the scoring load, but also has the unenviable position of defensively covering James. Whether Granger can slow down James, who averaged 27.8 points per game against the Knicks, will go a long way in deciding what team advances to the Eastern Conference finals.