The Pacers have been building to this moment for an entire season and finally look poised to end the Heat’s quest for a three-peat.
1. Because They’ve
Had This Matchup Circled All Year Long
Sure, the Pacers slumped down the stretch of the regular season. And yes, at times against both Atlanta and Washington, it looked like their playoff journey would be short. However, this team gets up for Miami. The Heat are the two-time defending NBA champs and they’re the team that took Indiana’s cookies last year. They’re the team that brings the best out of Indiana.
Case and point: in the third meeting of the season, the Pacers had already begun their slump. They had dropped seven of 12 before facing Miami but still got up for the game and took care of business. They’ve had this matchup circled all season long, they even started building for it in the offseason and this time, they won’t come up short.
2. Because Of Their Size
One of the reasons that the Pacers really bother the Heat is because of their size. Miami tries to get by with small lineups where LeBron James is at the power forward position and Chris Bosh is playing center. Against most teams – like Charlotte and Brooklyn – that was fine. Against someone line Indiana, that’s going to be a problem.
Roy Hibbert woke up in the second round of the playoffs and David West has been a monster the entire time. They’ll be a big handful for whoever the Heat throw at them. On top of that, they have Luis Scola coming off the bench. This is a big mismatch that will favor the Pacers all series long.
3. Because Of Home-Court Advantage
Remember, the difference in a very tight Eastern Conference Final last year was home-court advantage. They were so evenly matched last postseason that they needed seven games to decide a winner. That seventh game was played on Miami’s home floor but had it been played in Indiana, things would have been very different.
This time around, the Pacers have home-court advantage and they’ll get the extra game at home. That’s critical because they were 35-6 at home this season compared to just 21-20 on the road. As for the Heat, they were 32-9 at home compared to 22-19 on the road. That extra game in front of the home audience will make a huge difference.
4. Because They Now Have A Bench
One of the issues in last year’s series was that the Pacers didn’t get much help from the bench. That will change this time around. Now the Pacers have guys like Scola, C.J. Watson, Evan Turner and Chris Copeland coming off the bench to help out. The Pacers don’t have to sweat as much when their starters need a break or get into foul trouble.