(Sports Network) - The Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers will meet in the
postseason for the second consecutive year, but this time, it's in the Eastern
Last year, the Pacers actually held a 2-1 series lead in their semifinal
matchup, but ultimately fell in six games. The Heat, of course, went on to win
the NBA Championship.
This time around, it's for a spot in the NBA Finals and the stage has been set
for a tense battle.
Pacers' coach Frank Vogel downplayed any revenge factor, and in doing so,
started a controversy.
"This is not about getting back at Miami," Vogel said Saturday after the
Pacers eliminated the New York Knicks. "You're in the final four, you're
competing for a championship. And they're just the next team that's in our
way. And that's how we're approaching it."
LeBron James, the reigning NBA MVP, took offense to the description of the
Heat as "the next team."
"We're not just another team," James said. "I don't understand what he's
saying. But we're not just another team. It's not true.
"We're a great team. We're very confident. We'll be ready for them."
The rhetoric is out in full force. (To be fair, Vogel never said the Heat were
"just another team.") On the court, this should be a true battle
between two of the best defensive units in the NBA. During the regular season,
the Pacers finished second to the Memphis Grizzlies in opponents' scoring,
while Miami was fifth.
During the postseason, both teams have improved on their regular-season
numbers. The Heat are first in opponents' scoring and Indiana is fourth.
The Heat swept the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round of the playoffs, then
knocked off the Chicago Bulls in five games in the semifinals. The Bulls took
Game 1 and the series turned into a brutally physical quest for survival, but
Miami is four wins away from a chance to defend its title.
The Heat have won their playoff games by an average of 13.9 ppg.
Indiana had a much tougher route getting here.
The Pacers needed six games to best the Atlanta Hawks in the first round, then
knocked off the Knicks in six to set up this meeting with the Heat.
The Pacers went 2-1 against the Heat during the regular season with both
victories in Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Miami has taken six of the last seven
against Indiana at home.
BACKCOURT: Dwyane Wade has looked downright beaten down during this
postseason. His knee is bothering him and his scoring is down almost 8.0 ppg.
Wade has had time to rest during the playoffs with how quickly the Heat have
ended series, but his game is still not coming around. Mario Chalmers' scoring
is down slightly as well.
George Hill can change a game. While he's not a dynamic player, he owned Game
4 against the Knicks, then missed the next one with a concussion. Lance
Stephenson wasn't much of a scorer, although he started all season. He busted
out for 25 points and 10 rebounds in the series clincher on Saturday.
FRONTCOURT: James is the best player in the universe. His numbers are slightly
down during the postseason, but it's hardly mattered. When the time comes,
James will produce. Chris Bosh's scoring is also in decline, but when he
shoots it well from the perimeter, Miami is almost impossible to guard. Udonis
Haslem is almost a non-factor, but his playing time may increase to match up
with Indiana's big men.
Paul George is an All-Star and his numbers across the board are up. His
defense has been sensational and he'll have another tough task this series.
George defended Carmelo Anthony in the last series and will have James in this
one. Roy Hibbert dominated Tyson Chandler at times in the semifinals, but is
maddeningly inconsistent. David West's scoring is down, but his toughness will
be key. He's a matchup problem when the Heat go with their crunch-time lineup.
Shane Battier or James will have to defend West and the strength advantage
belongs to West.
BENCH: Miami gives Battier, Ray Allen, Chris Anderson and Norris Cole steady
minutes. Allen and Battier are critical late in games, Anderson will have to
play more to bang with Hibbert and West and Cole have been great during this
The Pacers have used only two players consistently off their bench during the
playoffs - D.J. Augustin and Tyler Hansbrough. Augustin started the Game 5
against the Knicks. He scored 12 points, but didn't hand out a single assist.
Gerald Green has scored when he's played, which is a little over half the
Pacers' playoff games.
COACHING: The Heat's Erik Spoelstra finished second to Denver's George Karl in
Coach of the Year voting. He has made decisions that have impacted the Heat
for years to come. It's easy to think a man who coaches James, Wade and Bosh
doesn't have to do much but roll the balls out there, but Spoelstra has firm
command of this operation.
Vogel is already mentioned as one of the league's best coaches. His
commitment to defense has made Indiana a formidable adversary and a tough
out. He came in fifth in Coach of the Year voting.
PREDICTION: Since the beginning of the season and the playoffs, it's been
assumed the Heat would walk through to their second straight NBA title. So
far, they have, except for the lone hiccup in Game 1 against the Bulls.
The Bulls get credit for a blueprint to not stop, but bother the Heat. Play
them physical because it'll bother them. That worked for a while, but Miami
punched back and won by an average of 18.25 in their four victories.
Indiana will play them physically as well. Yes, the Pacers present different
match-up problems for Miami. The Heat like to play small, especially late in
games. James or Battier will have to defend someone bigger and stronger.
But they can handle it.
The Heat don't get irritated by much. James probably made a mountain out of
Vogel's comments, but who cares. The Heat looked flat after a long layoff
against the Bulls, then responded. That could happen in Game 1 Wednesday, but
Miami is too good to let it linger.
SPORTNETWORK PREDICITION: MIAMI in 5.
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