Over the past couple of years, the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers have developed a bit of a rivalry. Just one year ago, the Pacers served as the 2nd greatest deterrent to LeBron’s quest to his 1st NBA title. The Heat battled back from an early series deficit, and used the bad blood that slowly spawned from several testy confrontations to their advantage.
So after losing the season series to Indiana this year, with a fair share of attention and controversy along the way, expect an upgrade in the attractiveness and quality of play in this Conference Finals matchup–the animosity will only accumulate, leading to a passion-driven, and hotly-contested series. Now that Roy Hibbert and David West have found their niches in the Pacer offense–particularly in these playoffs–the frontcourt-deprived Heat will find themselves fighting a lot harder for a return to NBA Finals.
And as much as I–and hopefully and true, non-bandwagon NBA fanatic–would like to see the small market Pacers fight off the insurmountable odds, vanquish the new Evil Empire (sorry New York), and restore faith in humanity…shortcuts, though stigmatized, are normally successful.
With 3 players in the Top 25 of the NBA (Top 15 when they united) and a surplus of outside shooters, the Heat will unfortunately prove to much for the underdog Pacers. Nevertheless, bad blood often serves as an equalizer between a ‘David and Goliath’, and in my opinion will drag this series out to a suspenseful seven games. Miami will appear to be on the brink of pulling away at most times–it won’t be so much of a back-and-forth affair–and will eventually capitalize on a fiery atmosphere (that was sarcasm- American Airlines Arena is as dull as a sporting venue gets for hosting a powerhouse team) and will escape a physical series with victory.
Here’s a few keys for each team in this series:
- Dwayne Wade’s health will be imperative as the Heat will not be able to rely only on LeBron here
- the likes of Bosh/Haslem/Andersen must at least control Indiana’s post duo (West/Hibbert) to around 30-40 pts. and 10-20 reb. combined
- someone outside the starting 5 must make a positive impact: Augustin (18 MPG), Hansbrough (14), and Green (13) must contribute more than just rest for starters
- Paul George has to prove his worth as the team’s best player–and improve on his abysmal shooting performances last round (shot 39% collectively)