Indiana Pacers at Miami Heat: 7:30pm CST on TNT
The Eastern Conference Finals is a repeat of last season's conference semifinal that saw Indiana take a 2-1 lead before Miami found its footing, went small, and won three in a row on their way to the title. Although Miami is clearly the better team, averaging one loss a month over the last four months and 8-1 in the playoffs, Indiana will make them work for it. The Pacers won two of their three meetings this season, though their last victory over the Miami was the Heat's final loss before embarking on their 27 game winning streak.
One of the keys to the series will be Indiana's ability to avoid turnovers. This is a bad matchup for them, as the Heat were 5th in the league in opponents turnover percentage, and the Pacers were very turnover prone during the season (27th in the league). If the Heat are able to force turnovers, especially live ball TOs, and run, the Pacers have no chance.
The Pacers will not go small to match-up with the Heat. They will try to force the issue with their bigs and punish Miami in the paint with Hibbert and West. They will have to get at least somewhat hot from range, however, in order to score enough points to give them an opportunity to win. Paul George and George Hill in particular will need to find their shooting strokes for this series.
Of course, the Pacers calling card is their defense. They have players with the strength and athleticism to at least theoretically make it difficult for the Heat, with Paul George and Lance Stephenson on the perimeter and one of the best rim protectors in the league waiting in the paint. Miami, however, is ruthlessly efficient offensively, and how they attack the Pacer defense is one of the interesting questions of this series.
A final note; officiating will play a major role. The Pacers absolutely cannot afford foul trouble, as their bench is a significant weakness, and they will need to ride their starting lineup hard in order to stay in games.
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