The Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers have to wait one more day before they tip off their Eastern Conference Finals best-of-seven series. Pundits feel the Pacers stand the greatest chance of dethroning the defending champion Heat, but most of them are still picking Miami to win. Fresh off a physically grueling series with the Chicago Bulls, the Indiana Pacers promise a similar challenge–one that will force the Miami Heat to stick to their identity (to use an Erik Spolestra term) and grind out their wins.
The Season Series
Indiana took two of the three match-ups this season, that after holding a 1-2 lead in the Eastern Conference Semifinals last season. The Pacers dominated the glass and held everyone on the Heat not named James, Wade or Bosh to just 11 points en route to the win in the first match-up, a 87-77 win in Indiana in January. The second game was also a Pacer win at home, as Indiana beat Miami 102-89 on February 1st. It would be the last Heat loss for the next 27 games, as Miami ripped off the second-longest winning streak in league history after the game. The Heat would exact a modicum of revenge with a dominant 105-91 win in Miami in March.
While the Pacers can point to those earlier wins as evidence they can beat the Heat, those games were played without a major Miami rotational piece in Chris Andersen. Indiana scored 93.3 points per game and grabbed 40.7 rebounds per game in the three games against Miami, while shooting 44% from the field and 39% from the three-point arc. The Pacers turned the ball over 14.7 times per game in the three contests. The Heat scored 90.3 points per game and grabbed 29.7 rebounds per game, while shooting 48% from the field and 43% from the three-point arc. Miami turned the ball over 12.3 times in the three game set against Indiana.