NBA Playoffs: Eastern Conference Finals Preview

Indiana Pacers (1) vs Miami Heat (2)

The Pacers made it to the Eastern Conference Final to once again face the Heat after a victory in six games over the Washington Wizards. Indiana is by no means back to their best, but they did show signs of regaining the form that saw them top the Eastern Conference regular season standings.

Roy Hibbert needs to find
some consistency
Roy Hibbert showed signs that he was beginning to regain his confidence and form, with good performances in the first two games of the series, although in games three, four and six he was almost completely anonymous.

However, one team that Roy Hibbert has always played consistently well against is the Heat, so now is the time for Hibbert to break out of his slump. No-one on this Miami roster can match the size of the 7’2” Hibbert. The only player Miami has who could match the strength of Indiana’s center is Greg Oden but he has been on the Heat’s inactive list throughout the postseason and would appear to be unlikely to figure in this series.
West and Stephenson have
stoked the fire in recent interviews

Lance Stephenson has added fuel to the fire that has been burning for a number of years between these two teams, stating that with Dwyane Wade guarding him, he intends to make Wade run around in the hope of making his problematic knee “flare up”.

David West has also chimed in, stating that the Pacers beat the one team that Miami did not want to play in the Eastern Conference, the Washington Wizards, in a bid to further rile the Heat.

The Heat know better than to respond to comments like these and they have no reason to as they are the two time defending champions and have nothing to prove compared to the Pacers, who are playing with a massive chip on their shoulder.

Miami was able to advance to the Conference Finals for the fourth year in succession with a relatively comfortable series win over the Brooklyn Nets in five games. Paul Pierce stated prior to the series that the Nets were not afraid of the Heat. That may have been the case, but they did not have the talent to match up with the defending champions.

LeBron James was once again instrumental in carrying his team into the next round, especially in game four, where he erupted to match his career high for points in a playoff game with 49. James did, however, receive more help than he got from his supporting in the first round.

Dwyane Wade showed a “Flash” of the player he can be, above all in game five, where he scored 20 points just in the first half. This is an encouraging sign for Miami, as they will need more from Wade if they want to advance to the NBA Finals. It could be that Stephenson’s recent comments are just what Wade needs to revitalize himself, as not many players play better than Wade when they are trying to make a statement.

Ray Allen hits the three pointer
Ray Allen came alive in the series played against the two players that he joined forces with in Boston to make up the Big Three, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. With 19 points in game one, Allen scored more points than he scored for all four first round games combined. However, Allen’s biggest play came in the game five series clincher, where he knocked down a step back corner three (sound familiar?) with 32 seconds remaining to give the Heat a two point lead, capping a 12-0 Miami run which brought them back from the brink of defeat.

It is fair to say the Pacers have been doing a lot of talking in the build up to this series; however, it is about time that they started to let their game speak for itself after looking less than comfortable in the first two rounds. Indiana certainly have not been playing well enough to justify the comments they have been making, so perhaps they have been saying these things to fire themselves up rather than trying to unsettle the two time defending champions.

Haslem will refuse to back
down against the Pacers
The Pacers’ best chance of winning this series is if they can get Roy Hibbert to play as well as he usually plays when facing the Heat. Miami has not used Udonis Haslem much so far in the postseason, but expect him to get a lot more minutes and maybe even start, to try and slow down Indiana’s frontcourt of Hibbert and West. What Haslem lacks in size, he more than makes up for it with his strength and tenacity and in the past he has caused Indiana problems due to his defense.

Paul George has had a fairly inconsistent postseason so far, and Indiana will certainly be counting on him to try and match LeBron James’ output, or at the very least slow him slow. The match-up between these two players has always been exciting to watch, and we are almost guaranteed another exciting contest.

The Heat have not had to play at their best to progress through the first two rounds, and have still been able to get through comfortable, whereas the Pacers have been poor and managed to scrape through. It is hard to see Indiana suddenly finding their form and challenging Miami like they did a year ago. Expect to see Miami make their fourth straight NBA Finals appearance.

Winner: Heat in 6

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