The Indiana Pacers and the Miami Heat will face off in the Eastern Conference Semifinals starting on Sunday at 3:30 on ABC. Â It will be the ultimate matchup of a team built through free agency and superstars versus a team built through the draft and smart transactions by the front office.
Ultimately, the Heat are the overwhelming favorites. Â Since the injury sustained to the Bulls’ Derrick Rose in their game one match-up against the Philadelphia 76ers, the Eastern Conference has been the Heat’s conference championship to lose. Â After all, the Heat are the defending Eastern Conference Champions, and they have arguably three of the best players in the league on their roster.
As mentioned above, this series pairs two teams that are vastly different. Â The Heat are a team that saw more games on national television than any other team in the entire nation. Â On the other end, the Pacers played exactly one game during the regular season on national TV. Â That game was a victory in early March over the Philadelphia 76ers. Â The Pacers also only had two of their five first round games against the Magic played on national television.
With all of that said, the media coverage is understandable. Â The Heat are a team that is full of superstars and flashy play, while the Pacers are a team that prides themselves on teamwork, defense, and a deep bench. Â People want to watch Chris Bosh set a screen for Dwyane Wade, who then finds a slashing Lebron James for an emphatic dunk rather than watch Lou Amundson set a cross screen for Roy Hibbert, who received the ball on a pass from Leandro Barbosa. Â I get it, I really do.
However, what I do not get, is that nobody has really seen the Pacers play, yet everybody wants to write them off. Â Many forget that the Pacers were the third seed in the East, boasting a record of 42-24. Â They also forget (or possibly did not know) that the Pacers beat the likes of the Bulls, Heat, Knicks, Lakers, Thunder, Clippers, and Celtics. Â And last, they are coming off four straight playoff wins over the Magic, with their last win possibly being their most impressive.
Lebron James and Dwyane Wade are clearly the two best players in the series, hands down. Â You could argue that Chris Bosh is a difference maker for the Heat, but the Pacers frontline duo of Roy Hibbert and David WestÂ neutralized Bosh during the regular season. Â In the four games Bosh played against the Pacers this season, he averagedÂ 15.5 points per game, two and a half below his average. Â He also only shot 37 percent from the field, more than 11 percentage points lower than his season average.
Once you take away the Heat’s “Big Three”, Indiana outmatches the Heat from players four through ten. Â The difference between the two teams is that the Heat will not play ten guys, while the Pacers are almost guaranteed to play AT LEAST ten. Â During a shortened season, and grueling playoffs, a deep bench and guys that can step up are very important.
The key for the Pacers will be their frontline. Â The David West the Heat played against during the regular season is a much different David West who has played extraordinarily well over the past few weeks. Â In fact, the Pacers actually ran their offense through David West during the Magic series, and I would expect to see the same during their series with the Heat. Â In the paint alongside West will be all-star center Roy Hibbert.
If the duo of David West and Roy Hibbert can get their offense going early for the Pacers, the Heat may be forced to focus more attention on the duo down low, which can only benefit the Pacers guards. Â With the Heat collapsing in the paint, and the Pacers extraordinary ball movement, the Pacers guards may find wide open perimeter shots.
It will be no cakewalk for the Pacers in their upcoming series, but the same could be said for the Heat. Â I expect the Heat to ultimately win the series, but I expect a lot of people nationally to be very impressed with the Pacers win or lose. Â They say to be the best, you have to beat the best, and Frank Vogel and company are up for the challenge.