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NBA Playoff Preview: Indiana Pacers vs. Miami Heat

May 16, 2014, 5:20 PM EDT

Indiana Pacers v Miami Heat - Game Seven Getty Images

SEASON RECORDS

Indiana Pacers: 56-26

Miami Heat: 54-28

KEY INJURIES

Indiana Pacers: Andrew Bynum (broken)

Miami Heat: none

OFFENSE/DEFENSE RANKINGS (points per 100 possession)

Indiana Pacers: Offense 101.5 (22nd in the NBA), Defense 96.7 (1st in the NBA)

Miami Heat: Offense: 109.0 (2nd in the NBA). Defense: 102.9 (11th in the NBA)

THREE KEYS TO THE SERIES

1) How will the Heat match up?

The Pacers – admirably or stubbornly – do what they do. They’re going to be big, and they’re going to be methodical.

The Heat are much more flexible, and it will be on Erik Spoelstra to determine how he wants to structure lineups around LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

Maybe Miami goes small with Bosh at center and a stretch four – LeBron, Rashard Lewis or Shane Battier – to space the floor. That would ensure Roy Hibbert defends outside the paint, removing the anchor of Indiana’s defense and removing Hibbert from his comfort zone. However, it would also leave the Heat vulnerable defensively to Hibbert’s post-ups and make Miami pick its poison on whether LeBron doesn’t guard Paul George or David West. Any sign Hibbert has lost confidence to the point he can’t score regardless, this should become the preferred strategy.

On the other hand, the Heat could also go big to counter Hibbert and West. Greg Oden was signed to match up with Hibbert, though that went disastrously in their regular-season meeting meeting. Small sample? Yes. Worth another shot? Maybe. Probably, even. Chris Andersen is Miami’s most reliable big man outside of Bosh, and he’ll definitely play a major role in this series. But he’s 35 and hasn’t played 30 minutes in regulation in four years. There’s only so much he can do.

Udonis Haslem could split the difference.

Haslem is an extremely physical player who, despite being just 6-foot-8, can work on Hibbert. He also has a nice mid-range jumper to pull Hibbert from the paint, though not all the way to the 3-point arc. Haslem started in the first round against the Bobcats, and then he played just three minutes against the small-ball Nets.

Spoelstra is more than willing to change his rotations based on opponent.

It’s not just who plays, but when they play – especially Bosh. Bosh is a solid defender in the right matchups, but Hibbert – and, to a lesser extent, West – can beat him up inside. Ideally for the Heat, they won’t waste all Bosh’s energy in a losing defensive match up only have him spent offensively.

2) How much does homecourt advantage matter?

All season, the Pacers made their goal securing the No. 1 seed and homecourt advantage. They’re so serious about beating Miami, they were looking for an edge since day one after losing a road Game 7 to the Heat last year.

Miami doesn’t take the regular season as seriously – see its record vs. Brooklyn in the regular season and postseason – and Indiana got the top seed it desired despite a late-season slide.

So, will all that work pay off?

In postseason series during the last four years, the Pacers are 4-0 with homecourt advantage and 1-3 without it. In individual games against Miami during the same span, the Pacers are 8-5 at home and 3-11 on the road.

It seems this should be important to Indiana.

Then again, the Pacers are 5-6 in their last 11 home games. Plus, in the Big Three era, the Heat are 11-1 with homecourt advantage and 2-0 without it in a series. They can win anywhere.

Maybe it will matter most as a mental reminder to the Pacers about why they worked so hard in the first place, potentially helping them summon some of the confidence they showed regularly early in the season and appears only occasionally now.

3) How hungry are the Pacers?

In 2012, Miami eliminated Indiana in six games in the second round. In 2013, Miami eliminated Indiana in seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Pacers are chomping at the bit, getting closer and closer to toppling the aging Heat.

From Miami’s perspective, keeping a hungry team at bay is hard. Yes, teams should – and generally do – give maximum effort at this point in the season. But when you’re coming from the position of power, there’s a lower threshold of energy you can reach once you get on the court.

The sensation of being corned and the desire to overcome a challenge are not easy to fake. The Pacers have it. The Heat have to fake it.

Since the NBA expanded to a 16-team playoff format in 1984, teams have met in three consecutive postseasons 22 times. The same team has won all three matchups just eight times. Five of those eight had Phil Jackson – the ultimate playoff motivator – as coach.

That leaves just three teams in 30 years that have beaten the same playoff opponent in three consecutive years without Jackson.

Could the Heat make it No. 4? They have a member of the one of the previous three – LeBron, whose Cavaliers beat the Wizards in 2006, 2007 and 2008. As usual, Miami’s demeanor will be defined by its megastar.

PREDICTION

The Pacers’ late collapse was very real, but also probably overblown. A good, but not elite, team is left in the rubble. It’s also a team designed specifically to match up with the Heat, Indiana could definitely overcome the quality gap between the teams.

The biggest potential variable is one that hopefully won’t be an issue at all – Wade’s health. If he goes down, this series loses a lot of prestige. He looks fine, but his knees are a constant concern and will be for the rest of his career. As long as Wade avoids injury, the Heat will just be too much.

Heat in 6

  1. void96eater - May 16, 2014 at 5:35 PM

    I agree with the article. The Heat are winning this series in 6 games. If they are very focused, then 5 games.

    They will probably split the first two games, then win both at home. What happens past that point is beyond me.

    • duhwighthoward - May 17, 2014 at 9:35 AM

      Uh, you said the Heat are winning in 6 games. Then you said the series will be 2-2, and what happens next is beyond you.

      Has someone taken your temperature recently?

      • reesesteel23 - May 17, 2014 at 11:31 AM

        He said 3-1 not 2-2

  2. antistratfordian - May 16, 2014 at 5:37 PM

    The Pacers have become so shaky at home – even to the point of being booed there – that I don’t think anyone would be surprised if the Heat won in 4.

    6 always seems reasonable though. It’s a safe choice to say 6 in any late round series. I’m leaning more towards Heat in 5.

  3. cantonbound13 - May 16, 2014 at 5:42 PM

    Pacers in 7

    • greatmiamisportsmind - May 16, 2014 at 7:58 PM

      The Pacers could be in Game 7, but it will be filled with Heat fans, since you attend Pacer playoff games for the price of a happy meal at McDonald’s. Heat will win in 5

      • jkirby317 - May 17, 2014 at 8:04 AM

        The heat don’t have fans. Fan is short for fanatic and their supporters only show up to be “seen” at the game.
        Miami fans? Ha.
        Lebron is gone after this season… what do you think happens to the “fan” base then?

      • greatmiamisportsmind - May 17, 2014 at 11:47 AM

        Yeah Miami has no fans, yet it costs $90 for nose bleed seats. Meanwhile for the price of a happy meal, you can see Indiana’s team playing Indiana’s game.

        LeBron and Co. aren’t going anywhere. If anything they’ll sign a one year deal and then we’ll see what happens with free agency again with other big names being available

    • hehateme2 - May 17, 2014 at 9:31 AM

      Dream on troll

    • leahcima1 - May 17, 2014 at 5:21 PM

      Cantonjerk0 is on mental peds. lol

  4. jbeagles23 - May 16, 2014 at 5:44 PM

    Canton no one cares what your prediction is. Suck a big d

    • ranfan12 - May 16, 2014 at 5:59 PM

      mad cause the pacers are going to lose lol

      • sumkat - May 17, 2014 at 4:40 AM

        ? The guy he said “one one cares what your prediction is” to. said the Pacers are going to win

      • ranfan12 - May 17, 2014 at 12:17 PM

        There’s a heat in 6 under the headline before clicking the article, and at the bottom of the actual article lol

    • leahcima1 - May 17, 2014 at 5:23 PM

      Oh nasty. Cantonjerk0 seems to have made an enemy. That’s what peds will do to your brain cantonjerk0. LOL

  5. money2long - May 16, 2014 at 5:45 PM

    This is why they signed oden.

    Anyway. Pacers have a chance at winning.
    Heat seem to always have an easy path in the east and onlooker’s become filled with the idea they are invincible.
    The heat have had very fortunate finishes when they face real teams in a series.

    I would like to see if the heat will avoid any brain farts or they will be going home earlier than most expect.
    I hate the pacers for sleeping through certain things. This is the series the pacers will be alert from jump. I’m not saying they will win game one by saying that, my point is the pacers will At the very least be in ready set go position.

    They were sloppy against the hawks. They will not be that way against the heat. They will be poised. Let’s see how far that carries them.

    This is why they fought for the number one seed.

    A lot of u buried them.

    A few in the minority said they would be just fine In the post season. And by making it to this point , those who said such are justified because this is where we expected them to be in October. Most of you criticized them so much in the second half of the season. I saw through the BS.

    Let’s see what this series brings us.
    Bring your tractors. We’re headed to Indiana folks.

    • kinggw - May 16, 2014 at 7:05 PM

      Spare us I knew they were going to be here speech. They haven’t been fine in this postseason. They’ve been lucky. They’ve had the easiest road to make the conference finals and they nearly didn’t make it. An outmatched Hawks squad came close to knocking the Pacers out. A couple of calls the other way in Games 2 and 4 of the conference semis against the Wiz and this series is opening in Miami. If not for the Wizards inability to close out games they wouldn’t have advanced.

      Will the Pacers be motivated, absolutely. Will they be poised, not so much. The Pacers haven’t shown any offensive or defensive consistency throughout the playoffs. It’s hard to believe they are going to start now. The Pacers will be up for Miami, but they won’t get bailed out by a team not having enough talent (ATL) or experience (WIZ). Heat in 6.

      • azarkhan - May 16, 2014 at 7:29 PM

        Easier than the Heat playing the Bobcats and the Nets? LOL

      • money2long - May 16, 2014 at 7:47 PM

        U say easy blah blah. People said they were toast ! People said they are a shell of themselves.
        What does an “easy” path have to do with that ???

        People said the pacers were a reflection of what they were second half of the season and would play as such and suffer in the postseason.

        Now people wanna justify them making the ECF by saying they had an ez path ?

        Haha. Ur such a tool

      • 00maltliquor - May 16, 2014 at 8:01 PM

        @ 2long

        Haters gonna hate bro. Nobody likes to see you say “I told you so” on here. They just salty they couldn’t predict it.

      • money2long - May 16, 2014 at 8:19 PM

        U got a point malt

      • kinggw - May 16, 2014 at 8:33 PM

        Yes, the Pacers facing an under .500 Hawks team who didn’t have Horford and a very green Wizards team is an easier path than the Bobcats who were a top ten defensive team (with an injured Big Al) and a veteran laden Nets team.

        They have suffered in the postseason. Just because they made it to the ECF doesn’t mean their problems are solved. Two games ago they got blown out by 22 points. They are the number one seed, now you want us to throw them a parade and you fancy yourself some kind of swami because they stumbled out of the second round. Get over yourself. You call me a tool but your the one talking about how the Pacers are going to be poised, but you are too scared to put a prediction saying they are going to win.

      • money2long - May 16, 2014 at 10:34 PM

        No one said their problems are solved. People just buried them every step of the way

        All of u can eat crow becuz they made it back to the ECF.

        u critics didn’t give them a chance to get there.

        That’s the only point

      • jkirby317 - May 17, 2014 at 8:09 AM

        The NBA is a bottom line league. Guess what Heat “fans”? The bottom line is that the Pacers EARNED the #1 seed in the EAST (over MIAMI).
        They won the same amount of Playoff Games as the Heat in 2014.
        The NBA will need Joey Crawford to officiate every single game if they need the HEAT to win again. The Pacers are the better TEAM and the better TEAM usually wins.
        #builtNOTbought

    • redbaronx - May 16, 2014 at 8:37 PM

      @money2long – If the Pacers continue to play schizophrenic ball (showing up one day and nada the next), the Heat will take care of them real quick. I’m not sure what makes you think they will be “poised” when they’ve been anything BUT poised. Last years Pacers team looked better than this one!

      Oh….and by the way: Heat in 5. Maybe 6 if Indiana gets their heads on straight for more than a game.

      • money2long - May 16, 2014 at 10:37 PM

        Like I said before , the pacers fall asleep when they get the idea the job is already done.
        When they felt they would finish with the top seed they faultered to end the reg season.
        When they saw they were up against a puny hawks team they already say themselves winning and didn’t enter with intensity and that misstep hurt.
        When they had a close out game against the wiZards at home they thought it’d be a cake walk and chilled and got blown out.
        Entering a series against the heat they will not get the idea the job is done.
        That is why is used the word poised because they will not be caught off guard.
        They know they have to bring their A game. So that is why they will come in slouching. They will be poised.

      • money2long - May 16, 2014 at 10:39 PM

        That is why they won’t come in slouching *
        Gosh auto correct. A few typos here. I hate proofreading sometimes.

    • jkirby317 - May 17, 2014 at 8:12 AM

      Don’t forget your fat-guy man thong and larger bottles of drakkar noir for fans in MIAMI. If Indiana is all hicks and tractors then Miami is all STDs, hot women, and old nasty Donald Sterling types with girlfriends the ages of their granddaughters.
      Pacers > Heat.

  6. ranoversquarells - May 16, 2014 at 5:46 PM

    “Broken” omg I nearly crashed I was laughing so hard

    • retxedfred - May 17, 2014 at 1:18 AM

      As soon as I read it in the first few lines of the article, I scrolled all the way down looking if anyone else had noticed. OMG that was hilarious!

  7. hodaghunter - May 16, 2014 at 5:52 PM

    “Broken”…. There goes my milk… Right out the nose

  8. nfl4days - May 16, 2014 at 5:56 PM

    Hibbert can’t decide he wants to play every other day like in the wiz series. He has to bring it every game if the pacers are going to win. Also the pacers may have the worst home court advantage of the teams left. Heat in 5.

  9. prareedoggin - May 16, 2014 at 6:01 PM

    Why does cantonbound even post here? Nobody cares about your predictions… Go find a coach

  10. jzone954 - May 16, 2014 at 6:48 PM

    Anti, I agree bro BUT at the same time I would be shocked at all if this goes 7.

  11. dbfan4ever - May 16, 2014 at 7:21 PM

    Pacers in 4! When it happens you saw it here first!

    • buffalowned - May 16, 2014 at 7:41 PM

      Not even Skip Bayless would say something so silly

  12. 00maltliquor - May 16, 2014 at 7:51 PM

    Thanks for the ‘blueprint’ to beating the Pacers, Jeff Teague and the Atlanta Hawks. Your blueprint worked so well for the both of us.

    -Washington Wizards

    • redbaronx - May 16, 2014 at 8:40 PM

      @00 Actually Hawks and Wizards played the right way vs the Pacers. Hawks didn’t have the firepower to pull of a series, and Wall went AWOL after game 2. I just chalked that series up to growing pains. The more disturbing alternative in Wall’s case is that he feels the pressure in big games!

      • realfootballfan - May 16, 2014 at 8:59 PM

        Yes, that was very alarming to see Wall choke like that. He was dropping the ball and flat out missing point blank range shots like he had the yipsees. I thought that guy was more mentally tough.

      • redbaronx - May 16, 2014 at 9:11 PM

        @00 – I was one of the few Wizards fans on PBT that said Wall shouldn’t get a max contract. Not because he’s not a great player. My doubts about him started from the mental standpoint. His publicly stated unwillingness to try to recruit players to come to DC. The comments about him being the best guard in the NBA when he clearly isn’t even that top tier yet. The way he doesn’t seem to go after responsibility.

        I may yet be proven wrong about him and I sincerely hope I am proven wrong, but I have this awful feeling that we’re tied up paying and playing a guy superstar money who ultimately won’t be anything more than a great regular season player. He reminds me of Gilbert Arenas, not in his overall demeanor (Wall is a serious guy compared to Arenas who was a clown), but Wall reminds me of Arenas as someone who is just playing because of the chip on his shoulder and the desire to belong, and that won’t push him to the superstar level management projects him to be.

      • 00maltliquor - May 17, 2014 at 1:58 AM

        For real though red, you don’t have much to worry with Wall other then his jumper. He’s a real good player and your team has a nice upside. Yeah he underperformed in the 2nd round but this was his first go ’round. Plus they played a 1st seed…no matter how bad they were before remembering who they were. Wall may be a lil’ overpaid now, but it’ll come together so as long as they add another piece and upgrade the bench a little. I wouldn’t worry too much about Wall though.

  13. greatmiamisportsmind - May 16, 2014 at 7:55 PM

    Fo-5-Fo

  14. sportsinhd - May 16, 2014 at 8:34 PM

    I remember when the Garnett/Pierce/Allen Celtics won the NBA Title a few years ago. They went seven games with a bad Atlanta team and then took seven games to beat the King James led-Cavs. It’s not quite the same, but I can see parallels. This series means EVERYTHING to the Pacers and their players. I can’t imagine them coming out as flat as they have in the first two rounds.

    That’s not a guarantee of victory or anything, but it would be foolish to completely write them off.

    • redbaronx - May 16, 2014 at 8:46 PM

      @sportsinhd – I wouldn’t draw a parallel with Boston. Boston came together their first year to win the title after Garnett and Allen came over to the Celtics. That doesn’t mean that they weren’t going through some growing pains at the time, just like Miami did in their 1st year loss to Dallas.

      Indiana on the other hand has had this core together a long time. There’s obvious chemistry issues right now. They didn’t congratulate each other when they came off the court, and Kenny Smith made an excellent observation that they weren’t talking to each other after time outs.

      Indiana may have been able to get by the Wizards this year, but getting past Miami is a whole different story. Indiana is going to have to play a LOT better than they did vs. Washington to have a decent shot in the Miami series, and frankly unless Indiana figures out how to gell like they did last year, they’re in trouble as of Game 1.

    • realfootballfan - May 16, 2014 at 9:00 PM

      It’s not at all the same. The Celtics could score.

  15. realfootballfan - May 16, 2014 at 8:52 PM

    I expect the Pacers to win game one and then lose three straight before either going down in 5 or 6. They simply don’t score enough, which is a shame for them because otherwise they have the match ups to threaten Miami. I don’t know if its Vogel or if they need different perimeter players to fix that issue.

  16. miamatt - May 16, 2014 at 9:04 PM

    Pacers match up well enough and played well often enough this postseason that they will push the Heat. But only so far…

    Miami in 6

  17. birdsofprey305 - May 16, 2014 at 11:24 PM

    @ money2long

    Haters going to hate, your right the heat were fortunate to beat OKC and the Spurs because luck can be measured. Let me guess they should have an asterisk because they beat a young thunder team and old spurs team. Keep aimlessly rooting for the heats demise.

  18. germanflats13a38 - May 16, 2014 at 11:33 PM

    “Indiana Pacers: Andrew Bynum (broken)”

    The truth of that statement made me smile.

  19. harshedmellow - May 17, 2014 at 3:57 AM

    Heat know what to do. Pacers are a hot mess. A Gentleman’s Sweep- Heat in 5.

  20. billtetley53 - May 17, 2014 at 5:29 AM

    And kb2408 is nowhere to be found with a prediction. What a 3 coiled turd that guy is.

  21. 25yearindyfan - May 17, 2014 at 6:59 AM

    The Miami contingency get so offended when anyone remotely gives Indiana a chance. Let’s play the games. And stop it with Charlotte and the geriatric Nets being a tougher road. Just stop it.

    • reesesteel23 - May 17, 2014 at 11:32 AM

      The just don’t agree lol. Nothing more, nothing less

  22. 12444uggg - May 17, 2014 at 12:34 PM

    No one talks about how the Heat had a similar late season collapse, and how LBJ is carrying them through the playoffs. Pacers in 7.

  23. jimeejohnson - May 17, 2014 at 12:45 PM

    GIve the Pacers credit. And I think they’ll give Miami a very hard time and actually have a chance to beat the Heat. This series is going to be EPIC!

  24. chiefwhirlingdervish10 - May 18, 2014 at 2:38 AM

    “The Pacers are chomping at the bit, getting closer and closer to toppling the aging Heat.

    From Miami’s perspective, keeping a hungry team at bay is hard. Yes, teams should – and generally do – give maximum effort at this point in the season. But when you’re coming from the position of power, there’s a lower threshold of energy you can reach once you get on the court.

    The sensation of being corned and the desire to overcome a challenge are not easy to fake. The Pacers have it. The Heat have to fake it.”

    That whole quote is utter nonsense, you can do better than crappy cliched sports psycho-babble. Although I am quite curious what the “sensation of being corned” is, and how you know it’s so hard to fake.

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