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No. 1 Indiana Pacers (56-26) vs. No. 2 Miami Heat (54-28)
Conference Finals; the most important time of the NBA season for teams to earn a place in the highly renound NBA finals. The Indiana Pacers are looking to defeat the Miami Heat as they so nearly did in the 2012-2013 playoffs. They look to break a 14 year omen, as they look to re-enter the NBA Finals.The Indiana Pacers have made the Eastern Conference finals seven times, six of them in an 11-season span between 1994 and 2004. The conference finals have not been kind to the Pacers, who are 1-6. Four of those defeats have come in seven games.
Road to the Conference Finals:
Indiana’s first round matchup was the Atlanta Hawks, who many did not see as playoff contenders at the start of the 2013-2014 season. Many people were shocked and pleasantly surprised when Atlanta advanced to the round of 16. The Pacers had a close call with the Hawks taking the series to 7 games, but the cool and calm gameplay of Paul George and David West steered the pacers to victory. Round 2 saw them take on the in form Washington Wizards who also were a surprise to see in this year’s playoffs. With the Wizards worn from the previous series against the Bulls, Indiana again capitalized winning the series 4-2. A disappointing performance from John Wall in this series also helped the red hot Pacers take the cake.
How the Pacers will win?
Roy Hibbert– Hibbert has been defamed for almost two months now for not putting up the types of numbers people expect of All-Star center. This season he has scored 14 points a game on 52 percent shooting against the undersized Heat, and might be a destructive force that ruins Miami’s small-ball approach in the conference finals. If he can post numbers like we have all seen him do in the past, watch out Heat!
Backcourt Defence– Paul George and Lance Stephenson are among the best perimeter defenders in the NBA, which is paramount against two of the league’s top slashers. If the Pacers’ exquisite interior and exterior defense can shut down the Heat’s top scorers, James, Wade, Bosh and Allen, this series will not be as one sided as people may think. Paul George and LeBron James have had some amazing battles already, and I cannot see why this series will be any different.
Home court advantage– This advantage may seem minor after a few home court smack downs earlier this postseason, but an engaged Pacers team at home is a force to be reckoned with. During the regular season Indiana was 35-6 at home, and just 21-20 on the road!
The Pacers are a team that have a deep and well-rounded squad, and because of this they can play many different rotations. Starters such as Grant Hill, Lance Stephenson, Paul George, David West and Roy Hibbert are all backed up by talents such as C.J Watson, Evan Turner and Luis Scola. This gives Indiana an advantage over the heat as their bench consists of average to poor players. Another advantage Indiana has going into this eastern conference finals matchup is defence. Pure and well-versed defence. Frank Vogel needs to channel his team’s strengths appropriately against the Heat to stop their stars. If the Pacers can shut down at least 2 of the big 3, they are in with a real shot at winning these finals. Even if they can shut down LeBron they are doing themselves a big help.
Apart from Paul George, Indiana has some streaky scorers that most of the time can’t put up consistent numbers on the offensive end. This could see the Pacers struggle to get points with the likes of LeBron and Chris Bosh on the other end of the floor. With the majority of their team not even averaging over 15 points per game, the scoring load will be on Paul George. This could see him tire and lose his spark throughout the series. Players such as Lance Stephenson and David West really need to help out and step up on the offensive end if we are to see the Pacers progress to the next round. If they can do this, like we have all seen before, we will have a very exciting eastern conference finals!
How the Pacers will lose:
Lebron James, plain and straight. If the Pacers do not shut this man down, goodbye NBA finals. It is crucial that they shut him down as he is their best scorer, defender and one of their best leaders. If they let him finish inside and score from distance, we are looking at a possible repeat of last year. Other players such as Wade, Bosh and Allen also need to be watched as they can back up James in a very effective and deadly manner.
Paul George vs LeBron James
Paul George has had his best season in his entire career, full stop. Coming into this series with red hot form, he will pose as a big challenge for LeBron. If he can continue to produce the stellar statistics we have seen him do on a regular basis, the Pacers are going to have a real chance at reclaiming a place in the NBA finals. LeBron will have to compete at his best to rattle this young talent.
Roy Hibbert vs Chris Bosh
Roy Hibbert has had a wobbly playoffs and is looking to regain his balance. Matching up with Chris Bosh, who is overshadowed by James and Wade, Hibbert has a strong height and skill advantage. With Bosh’s defence not as strong as Hibbert’s this season, he will have real issues scoring inside. Bosh will have an advantage over Hibbert from beyond the arc, but will Bosh have the ball in his hands much on the offensive end anyway? Hibbert’s main obstacle in this matchup will be his inside scoring against Bosh, but if he can step up his game to another level this series I don’t see why the Pacers couldn’t win.
Predictions: Heat 4-3
The Pacers need to show in this series why they finished on top in the regular season. A very hard team to beat at Bankers Life Fieldhouse and one of the best defensive rosters in the NBA, the Pacers will show the Heat how it feels to be beaten. Again the main reason why I see them not winning these conference finals is the Heat’s star filled starting line-up consisting of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. LeBron will challenge the Pacers both on offence and defence. This could lead to the Pacers falling apart and losing all faith in themselves to beat the intimidating heat. There is no reason why the Indiana Pacers cannot beat the Miami Heat, but the real result will come when both teams step into Bankers Life Fieldhouse for tomorrows 1st game of the 2013-2014 eastern conference finals!
Pleasure writing for you all and I can’t wait to see who can perform to earn a spot in the NBA finals!