Indiana Pacers 49 - 32 vs. Miami Heat 66 - 16
Regular Season Series: Indiana Pacers 2, Miami Heat 1
The Miami Heat enters the Eastern Conference Finals as heavy favorites against the Indiana Pacers. They have lost only three times in their last forty eight games and have faced little resistance from their opponents thus far in the 2013 post season. However, the Pacers should give the Heat a fight in this series. They defeated the Heat twice in the regular season and have the interior size in center Roy Hibbert and forward David West to expose the Heat’s weakness in the paint.
This will not be an easy series for the Heat and they should not take the Pacers lightly. Here are five observations that could decide the outcome of the series.
The willpower of Lebron James
James has shown incredible willpower in the previous two postseasons. In 2011 he took over games late in the fourth quarter that propelled the Heat to series victories against the Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls, leading the Heat to the Eastern Conference Championship. He did it again in last year’s playoffs pushing the Heat past the Pacers in the Conference Semi-Finals and the Celtics in the Conference Finals.
His willpower and inspiring leadership influences his teammates as they play with more confidence when James decides to assert his will on their opponents. James’ ability to impose himself on the Pacers should give the Heat the advantage in this series and if the Pacers are going to win they will need to overcome his greatness.
Taking advantage of the Heat in the paint
Pacers’ big men Hibbert and West have an advantage against the Heat front court at both ends of the floor. Their advantage is further aided by the fact that the Heat like to play a small lineup to put another perimeter scorer on the floor, which forces either James or Shane Battier to play out of their normal position and battle bigger players in the post on defense.
Playing a small lineup in this series could be a real problem for the Heat. James and Battier will have a tough time guarding West, who is bigger and stronger then the two wing players. If he is able to beat up on Battier and James in the post, it could force the Heat to play a big lineup. This adjustment would disrupt their offensive strategy because they will have to take a scorer off the floor to match up with the Pacers’ defensively.
Along with James and Battier, Chris Bosh carries a lot of responsibility in this series. He will need to do a better job protecting the rim, guarding the post and rebounding the ball than he has so far in the 2013 post season. Furthermore, he will need to be aggressive on the offensive end, to wear down Hibbert over the course of the game to minimize the Pacers interior advantage.
Beyond Bosh, the Heat will depend on Chris Anderson. Should the Heat be forced to go big, look for Anderson to play alongside Bosh in the paint. Also, no one should be surprised if Joel Anthony gets some minutes guarding Hibbert in this series. He has proven that he is a dependable post defender and he may be able to give the Heat a lift at some point in this series.
Ability of the Pacers to disrupt the Heat’s offense
Because of the great offensive skill of Dwayne Wade and Lebron James, the Heat have constructed an offensive that takes advantage of their opponents’ need to double team their two great players and leave their perimeter shooters wide open to make shots. This strategy has worked exceptionally well for the Heat, as they have five players who shot better than forty percent from the three point line in the regular season.
For the Pacers to keep this drive and kick offense from being effective, they are going to need their big men to take away the driving lanes in the paint to allow their perimeter defenders to stay with the Heat’s three point shooters. This series will be a real test for the Pacers team defense, but if they remain disciplined and communicate they will be able to slow down the Heat’s offense.
Health of Dwayne Wade
Wade has been playing with a sore right knee throughout the post season. His injury has caused him to miss a game in the opening round series against the Milwaukee Bucks and made him questionable for game five in the Conference Semi-finals against the Bulls. Had the Bulls been able to push the series to a sixth game, it is possible that Wade would not have been able to play.
When the Conference Finals begin on Wednesday night, Wade will have had a week to rest his ailing right knee. The time off should allow him to play at an all-star level early on in the series. Nonetheless, as the series progresses he may become less effective, or possibly unable to play. If this happens, it will allow the Pacers to space the floor on defense in a manner that minimizes the ability of James to drive to the basket or take open mid-range jump shots. Simply put, the Heat need Wade healthy to beat the Pacers.
A Seventh Game
If the series gets to a seventh game the probability of the Pacers winning the series is minimal because the Heat has home court advantage and home teams have won 112 of the 135 game sevens in NBA history.
The Heat are a clear favorite in this series. But, if the Pacers are able to take advantage of the Heat in the paint and control the perimeter they might be able to win their first Eastern Conference Championship in thirteen years.
Every series game is being televised nationally on TNT. To stream the games live, check out tnt.com and sports-today-everyday.blogspot.com
Game 1 in Miami: Wednesday May 22, 8:30pm. EST
Game 2 in Miami: Friday May 24, 8:30pm. EST
Game 3 in Indiana: Sunday May 26, 8:30pm. EST
Game 4 in Indiana: Tuesday May 28, 8:30pm. EST
Game 5* in Miami: Thursday May 30, 8:30pm. EST
Game 6* in Indiana: Saturday June 1, 8:30pm. EST
Game 7* in Miami: Monday June 3, 8:30pm. EST