Skip to content

Eastern Conference Finals preview: Pacers vs. Heat

May 21, 2013, 4:51 PM EDT

Miami Heat James is guarded by Pacers forward George during their NBA game at the American Airlines Arena in Miami Reuters

SEASON RECORDS

Indiana 49-33 (Third seed in East)
Miami 66-16 (First seed in East)

PLAYOFF RECORDS

Indiana 8-4 (beat Atlanta 4-2 in the first round, New York 4-2 in the second)
Miami: 8-1 (swept Milwaukee in first round 4-0, beat Chicago 4-1 in the second)

SEASON SERIES

Indiana won the regular season series 2-1 with the Pacers winning both of the games on their home court. The second Pacers win was the last game before Miami’s 27-game win streak and the Pacers fell to the Heat once during that run.

KEY INJURIES

Nothing new or dramatic here. Miami’s Dwyane Wade will play through a bruised left knee, as he did last series. The Pacers David West has a sore calf, but it will not keep him from playing.

OFFENSE/DEFENSE RANKINGS (points per 100 possession) – PLAYOFFS ONLY

Miami: offense, 109.1 (1st in postseason); defense 93.4 (1st in postseason)
Indiana: offense 100.3 (10th in postseason); defense 98.3 (5th in postseason)

THREE KEYS TO THE SERIES:

1. Can Indiana get the ball into the post cleanly, quickly? We all know the Pacers have a size advantage they want to exploit in this series — if Roy Hibbert or David West can get the ball in the post Miami will struggle to slow them (or if the Heat defense collapses perimeter shooters open up). The problem last year for Indiana against the Heat in the playoffs is it wasn’t that easy to get the post play set up — Miami puts a lot of pressure on the opposing guards with an aggressive defense, and they will front the post and take away the easy pass. Indiana struggled to get the ball into the block last year, and often when they did it was late in the clock and the shooter was rushed.

Miami’s strategy isn’t going to change, it is up to Indiana to adjust. They have to not turn the ball over under pressure and get the ball to their bigs on the block with enough time on the clock to exploit their advantage. If Indiana is forced to create shots on the perimeter with their wings they are in a lot of trouble.

2. Roy Hibbert on Chris Bosh. Indiana took a 2-1 lead in last year’s playoff series between these teams in large part because of Hibbert and the Pacers defense — his 7’2” frame and long arms in the paint cut off the driving lanes for LeBron James,  Wade and the rest of the Heat, making life difficult.

Chris Bosh changes that equation. Remember Bosh was injured in Game 1 of that series, but with him back Hibbert has to respect Bosh all the way out to the three point line. If Hibbert is out guarding Bosh 15 feet from the rim things open up for Miami’s driving wings. Indiana has to both cover Bosh outside the paint and protect the paint, and that will not be easy.

3. Indiana’s defense has to play all the way to the buzzer. Let’s use an example from the Western Conference Finals Game 1: After handling the Chris Paul dominated Clippers and the Kevin Durant dominated Thunder, the Grizzlies struggled to slow the Spurs in the opener. The difference was that when you stop the Spurs first option out of a set they go to the second, third and fourth with clean execution until you are left scrambling. Then they find the open guy. Memphis was not used to covering that.

Indiana’s defenders are going to have to be sharp for the full 24 seconds because this is not the Knicks that resort to isolation after you shut down a primary option. Miami moves the ball very well. It is is tough to defend Chris Bosh away from the basket and Ray Allen in the opposite corner while LeBron James starts his drive. Once the defense breaks down Miami exploits it well.

The Pacers were the best defense in the NBA this regular season and that defense has gotten them to the conference finals. But if they dream of advancing any further it has to be even better.

OUTLOOK

While some people have a sense the Heat are on their way to a coronation more than going through a challenging playoffs, the Pacers will test them. Paul George has come into his own this year and his defense is going to make life as difficult for LeBron as anyone can. David West is rock solid and the Pacers size is going to be an issue for Miami. Indiana can slow the Heat down and they have advantages.

But not enough. Indiana’s offense is going to find it hard to score on Miami and their turnovers — 15.2 percent of possessions in the playoffs, it was 16.2 percent in the regular season, second worst in the league — will get them in trouble. Miami feeds on turnovers, that’s how they get on their 12-0 runs that are nearly impossible to overcome.

Miami is going to need more — Bosh and the banged up Dwyane Wade will have to score more this series. More importantly, the Heat need to get a big game or two during the series from guys like Shane Battier and Norris Cole. Indiana is a very good defensive team that will take away the preferred options of the Heat, other guys will have to step up.

PREDICTION

Heat in six. Indiana will push them but just does not have enough offense to get four wins in seven.

This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
Latest Posts
  1. Hawks’ Kyle Korver leaves Game 2 with ankle sprain, does not return (VIDEO)

    May 23, 2015, 9:30 AM EDT

    Cleveland Cavaliers v Atlanta Hawks - Game Two Getty Images

    Atlanta is already down 2-0 to Cleveland in the series, and if Korver misses any time, the Hawks are finished.

  2. Report: Jeff Van Gundy candidate for Pelicans’ coaching job

    May 23, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT

    Game One Miami Heat v Indiana Pacers - Eastern Conference Finals Game One Getty Images

    He would bring a defensive mindset that he team could use.

  3. Cavs’ improved defense deserves credit for commanding 2-0 Eastern Conference Finals lead

    May 23, 2015, 12:25 AM EDT

    Timofey Mozgov Timofey Mozgov

    Cleveland shut down Atlanta’s offense in a dominant Game 2 performance.

  4. No Kyrie Irving, no problem: Cavaliers cruise to blowout Game 2 win over Hawks

    May 22, 2015, 11:16 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    LeBron was great, and that was enough against a Hawks team that keeps losing guys due to injury.

  5. James Harden was ‘kicking chairs’ after Rockets’ Game 2 loss to Warriors

    May 22, 2015, 10:30 PM EDT

    Houston Rockets v Golden State Warriors - Game Two Getty Images

    There’s also video of Harden doing some damage in the tunnel on the way to the locker room.

  6. Pero Antic commits flagrant foul on LeBron James (VIDEO)

    May 22, 2015, 9:30 PM EDT

    Cleveland Cavaliers v Atlanta Hawks - Game One Getty Images

    Ruled a flagrant, which was probably the correct call under the circumstances.

  7. Lakers not planning on trading the No. 2 pick in this year’s draft

    May 22, 2015, 8:30 PM EDT

    Mitch Kupchak AP

    GM Mitch Kupchak: “It looks as though we’ll use our pick this year.”

  8. Kyrie Irving out for Game 2 vs. Hawks

    May 22, 2015, 7:38 PM EDT

    Miami Heat v Cleveland Cavaliers Getty Images

    Irving is dealing with a knee injury.

  9. Kobe Bryant tries to explain Stephen Curry with a riddle

    May 22, 2015, 7:15 PM EDT

    Los Angeles Lakers v Golden State Warriors Getty Images

    Explaining Stephen Curry’s game is just not that easy.

  10. Clippers’ Dahntay Jones: There’s no rift between Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan

    May 22, 2015, 6:49 PM EDT

    Denver Nuggets v Los Angeles Clippers Getty Images

    Did they disagree? Sure. Was there a rift… depends on who you ask.

  11. Report: Clippers, other teams have made Summer League offers to Royce White

    May 22, 2015, 4:15 PM EDT

    Royce White AP

    Summer League is a perfect place for giving White another look.

  12. Report: Lakers have ‘big-time’ interest in signing DeMarre Carroll, Celtics and Pistons also in pursuit

    May 22, 2015, 2:45 PM EDT

    Los Angeles Lakers v Atlanta Hawks Getty Images

    Would they pay him the $15 million per season one NBA executive estimated the Hawks forward could get in free agency?

Featured video

Small ball lineup propelled Warriors to Game 1 win
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. K. Irving (6203)
  2. K. Love (5371)
  3. D. Howard (4735)
  4. P. Beverley (4627)
  5. S. Curry (3935)
  1. L. James (3753)
  2. D. Carroll (3696)
  3. K. Durant (3629)
  4. M. Speights (3619)
  5. K. Bryant (3554)