For the second consecutive year, the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers will meet in the Eastern Conference Finals. Unlike last year, the Pacers will have home-court advantage.
Miami played the least amount of games of any team that is still in contention to win the title. They swept the Charlotte Bobcats in the opening round, and followed that up with a five-game series against the Brooklyn Nets. The Heat made a late-game comeback in Game Five to close out the series.
The Pacers barely got out of the first round, after falling down 3-2 in their series with the Atlanta Hawks, who lost 44 games in the regular season. After losing Game One to the Washington Wizards in the second round, Indiana got back on track, winning four of the next five contests.
The two teams have been very competitive against each other in the last two seasons. Last year, the Heat knocked the Pacers out of the playoffs in seven games. This season, they split their four matchups. Both teams were victorious in their two home games. Three of those games were decided by six points or less.
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LeBron James: If James continues to perform like he has in the first two series, nobody is going to beat the Heat. He’s shooting at a historically efficient rate, averaging 30 points on just over 17 shot attempts per game. James continues to dominate on defense, as evidenced by his last-second stop on Joe Johnson in Miami’s clincher against Brooklyn. Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh have been good enough, and they haven’t had to be big scorers with the way James is playing.
Roy Hibbert: The center has been the most perplexing player in the NBA this season. He was the leading candidate to win the Defensive Player of the Year Award, until his defense dropped off significantly in the final two months. He’s been invisible at times in the playoffs, scoring four points or less in three losses. He had his best games against Washington, averaging nearly 20 points and eight rebounds in three consecutive wins. If he can’t be a factor inside, the Pacers don’t have a chance.
The Pacers are one of the best defensive teams in the NBA, but the difference between Indiana’s offense Miami’s offense is sizeable. In the regular season, the Heat scored 109 points for every 100 possessions, ranking them second in the league. The Pacers came in at No.22, averaging 101.5 points for every 100 possessions. James, Wade and Bosh have all be very efficient from the field. Their scoring ability, combined with the big shots that Ray Allen has made, will likely be too much for Indiana.
If Hibbert plays like he did in the first half of the season, Indiana can win the battle inside. James is nearly unstoppable in the paint, but Hibbert is one of the best in the league at altering shots. Power forward David West had had some of his better games against Miami, averaging 17.8 points and 7.3 rebounds against the Heat.
Game 1: Sunday, May 18 at Indiana, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
Game 2: Tuessday, May 20 at Indiana, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Game 3: Saturday, May 24 at Miami, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Game 4: Monday, May 26 at Miami, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Game 5: Wednesday, May 28 at Indiana, 8:30 p.m. ET*, ESPN
Game 6: Friday, May 30 at Miami, 8:30 p.m. ET*, ESPN
Game 7: Sunday, June 1 at Indiana, 8:30 p.m. ET*, ESPN
Miami -390, Indiana +330 [Bet Online]
Miami in five