Miami Versus Indiana PreviewEastern Conference Second Round
#2 Miami (46-20) vs. #3 Indiana (42-24)
Season series: Miami, 3-1
Indiana can win if…the Pacers limit their turnovers and win the rebounding battle, thus forcing the Heat to score in the half court as opposed to thriving in the transition game. If the Pacers control the tempo of the game then they can exploit their size/strength advantage at the center/power forward positions by posting up Roy Hibbert and David West.
Miami will win because…LeBron James has a history of dominating in the first two rounds of the playoffs and this series is unlikely to be an exception to that pattern; James leads the Heat in several significant statistical categories and his dominant regular season performance that almost certainly will earn him the 2012 MVP has put to rest the ludicrous notion that he is some kind of sidekick to Dwyane Wade. The Heat have game seven at home as a trump card if necessary.
Other things to consider: On paper the Pacers look like a team that could cause the Heat some trouble: the two things that bother the Heat the most are big frontcourt players who can score and dynamic point guards who can get into the paint. In a half court game, Roy Hibbert and David West will present matchup problems for the Heat up front, while Darren Collison, George Hill and Leandro Barbosa will pose challenges for Miami's point guards. Danny Granger and Paul George have the size, length and athletic ability to provide more defensive resistance against LeBron James and Dwyane Wade than Miami's two dynamic wing players generally face.
The Heat won the first three regular season meetings between these two teams but it is difficult to know just how much to read into anything that happened in this compacted, lockout-shortened season as teams dealt with injuries and juggled their lineups for various reasons.
The Heat have the three best players in this series--likely 2012 MVP LeBron James, likely All-NBA selection Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, who has made the All-Star team for seven straight seasons--but the Pacers probably have the next seven best players. In the NBA playoffs, superior talent generally trumps superior depth because the time off between games enables coaches to shorten their rotations accordingly. It will be interesting to see if Indiana can turn this series into a grind out, slow down, physical battle that will place a premium on strength, half court execution and depth or if Miami will be able to force a fast tempo and showcase the athletic skills of their three star players.
I expect that the Pacers will win two games but I don't think that they have quite enough talent to knock off the Heat, unless James decides to quit the way that he did against Boston in 2010 and against Dallas in the 2011 NBA Finals; the Pacers will surely be quite happy any time that James stations himself in the deep corner as an innocent bystander while someone else handles the ball. TNT's Charles Barkley said that if Indiana has a chance to close out the series in six then the Pacers will win but that if the series goes the distance than the Heat will win; that is a very reasonable assessment but for the Pacers to pull off the upset in that scenario they would have to win all three games at home and steal a game in Miami as well, a very tall order on both counts.
posted by David Friedman @ 7:13 PM