It was inevitable that the Pacers and Heat would meet in the Eastern Conference Finals. However, the inconstant play of Indiana has taken a bit of steam off the much anticipated match-up between the two power houses.
Miami clicked on all cylinders as they swept the Charlotte Bobcats in the first round then sent home the aging Brooklyn Nets in five games before returning back to the Conference Finals. On the other side of the coin, Indiana slipped past an eighth seeded Atlanta Hawks team avoiding a colossal first round upset before knocking off the surging Washington Wizards in six.
Match-ups to watch for:
Lance Stephenson vs. Dwayne Wade
Wade is clearly the superior player to Lance. It’s no secret the Pacers 6th man is a bit of a, well “loose canon” and his emotions run high pretty much all the time. The energy he brings to the floor will be needed but he can’t allow one of the greatest two-guards of all time to make him look foolish; ok more foolish.
Heat bench vs. Pacers bench
Indiana knew in the off-season one issue they had to address was their lifeless bench, something that kept them from dethroning the Heat last season. The Pacers are averaging five points per game more during the 2014 playoffs, thanks to the play of forward Luis Scola and point guard C.J. Watson. As for the two-time defending champs, the play of LeBron James has overshadowed many of their major flaws, one of those being lack of a quality bench. It will be interesting to see if Michael Beasley will have much of an impact for Miami. Having said that, in May and June you are guaranteed one Heat player will rise to the occasion and make a big play at the right time. Indiana better know where Ray Allen is at all times, just ask the Spurs.
Bad Roy Hibbert vs. Good Roy Hibbert
Even David Copperfield would be impressed with Hibberts occasional disappearing acts throughout the playoffs. In the Pacers playoff wins the 7’2 center is averring close to 19 points and nine rebounds, compared to two points and one rebound in the losses. The mindset of Hibbert is fragile and with Udonis Haslem back into the rotation, it will be interesting to see if the Heat attempt to kill his confidence early.
I’ve gone back and forth on this series and I can see it going either way, but Miami having LeBron James tips the scale for me. James’ ability to make the right play and put his guys in the best position to be successful makes head coach Erik Spoelstra’s job much easier. The only way I see it going south for Miami is if Wade can’t stay healthy, hopefully the luck doesn’t run out for the ” Heatles”
Prediction: Heat 4 Pacers 2