Wednesday, May 22, 2013

2013 NBA Playoffs - Eastern Conference Finals

The "trash talk" has already begun between the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers as they meet in the playoffs for the second straight year. Pacers coach Frank Vogel didn't kiss the Heat's ass enough for King Lebron James liking, so he had a little hissy fit about it. The Pacers pushed the Heat hard last season, going up 2-1 in their Eastern Conference Semi-Finals series, before dropping the final three games. Do they have what it takes this season to finish the job they started and upset the Heat?

#1 Miami Heat vs. #3 Indiana Pacers

Literally, the single biggest reason that people give the Pacers a chance in this series is Roy Hibbert. The Heat have no one that can match up with Hibbert. Please don't tell me that Chris Bosh, James Jones, Joel Anthony or Udonis Haslem can. Hibbert is a beast compared to those three. The Pacers will dominate the boards in this series, no doubt about it. If the Heat aren't hitting their shots at strong rate, they could lose the series. Now that seems pretty obvious, but in this series, playing strong defense won't be enough for the Heat to win. They were able to score some points against a strong Bulls defense, but that Bulls team was missing many pieces. Also, they let a depleted Bulls team have some pretty strong offensive showings against them.

The edge at point guard goes the Pacers, although George Hill did suffer a concussion in the series against the Knicks, so he may not be all the way back. He played 42 minutes in the Game 6 clincher, but struggled, shooting just 2-10 from the field. Mario Chalmers is always hit or miss for the Heat. He either randomly breaks out a strong game or you usually barely notice him on the court. At shooting guard of course the Heat have the advantage with Dwyane Wade, but its not as far a gap as usual. Wade has been hobbled, and save for the last half of Game 5 against Bulls he was basically ineffective. Lance Stephenson typically doesn't contribute a ton but busted out for 25 points in the Game 6 win against New York.

A great one on one matchup to watch in this series is LeBron James going against Paul George. You don't always get to see each team's best players go up against one another but that is the case in this series. Can James limit George's effectiveness, as George is a highly consistent scorer? Will George be able to slow down LeBron and force James into some turnovers? George is very good at creative turnovers on the defensive end, averaging almost 2.3 steals per game in his last 10 games. Of course, playing LeBron is an entirely different animal, and if LeBron is already feeling a bit slighted, watch out. As mentioned above, the interior battle could be a huge mismatch for Indiana, not just with Hibbert but also with David West. The Heat will have to find answers for Hibbert and West, or the Pacers will be content with feeding the ball inside all series.

Coming off the bench for Heat you will see Ray Allen, who is coming off a mostly forgettable series against the Bulls. Also, Shane Battier receives a good amount of times, while Norris Cole and Chris Anderson see some spot duty. Anthony and Jones have basically disappeared from the rotation but perhaps we will see more of them this series. The bench isn't the Pacers strong suit, with only Tyler Hansbrough or D.J. Augustin being guys they can somewhat rely on. If either team gets contributions out of their bench in this series, it could be the difference maker.

The Heat blew out the Bulls in two games but otherwise really struggled with a very depleted Chicago team. The Pacers are without Danny Granger but have been that way for basically the entire season and still won 49 games. Basketball is about matchups and the Pacers are a tough draw for the Heat. Miami is the best team of the four remaining but I think the Pacers can challenge them. Especially, when they play at home in Indiana, where they are 6-0 in the playoffs. In fact, something will have to give because the Heat are currently 4-0 on the road in the playoffs. I think the Pacers can get this series to a seventh game, before LeBron and company close them out.

Prediction: Heat over Pacers, 4-3

1 comment:

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