Ron Glover’s Eastern Conference Finals Preview and Prediction: (3) Indiana Pacers vs. (1) Miami Heat
Paul George faces the stiffest test of his young career as leader of the Indiana Pacers.
The Indiana Pacers come into the Eastern Confidence Finals against the Miami Heat full of confidence. Not only did the Pacers take the New York Knicks out in six games they won two out of three contests this season against the world champions.
The Miami Heat come out of their physical five game series with the Chicago Bulls healthy and rested once again. Faced against a more athletic Pacers team than in recent seasons, the Heat are up for the challenge.
Indiana won season series 2-1.
Game 1 in Miami: Wednesday, May 22
Game 2 in Miami: Friday, May 24
Game 3 in Indianapolis: Sunday, May 26
Game 4 in Indianapolis: Tuesday, May 28
Game 5 in Miami: Thursday, May 30
Game 6 in Indianapolis: Saturday, June 1
Game 7 in Miami: Monday, June 3
George Hill’s concussion issues are hopefully behind him and he can get back to the task at hand. Hill missed Game 5 of the Knicks series after colliding with Tyson Chandler in Game 4 and later complaining of headaches in practice. Hill gave the Pacers a needed boost at the point guard position against the Knicks, averaging 16 points per contest. Lance Stephenson came out of nowhere in the last series to nearly average a double-double. Stephenson give the Pacers an athletic guard capable of making the oft-hobbled Dwyane Wade work at both ends.
Norris Cole could get the starting nod in a game or two, but for all intents and purposes Erick Spoelstra will go with the experienced Mario Chalmers. The five-year veteran remains the steady hand behind the Heat’s uptempo offense. Underrated as a defender, Chalmers’ primary assignment is to slow down George Hill. For the rest of the playoffs, the status of Dwyane Wade’s knee will be a concern. Wade put up decent numbers in the Bulls series. Being on the floor for 32+ minutes had to be encouraging to Wade and his mates. Battling with the energetic Stephenson could take its toll on Wade. I’m sure plays are designed to help him out.
Danny Granger has been reduced from the antagonist in last year’s playoffs, to a mere spectator this season. Granger’s knee woes have opened the door for Paul George to step to the forefront and claim the team as his own. George averaged 20 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists against the Knicks. George will have to work for everything against LeBron James as well as trying to keep the league MVP in check. George didn’t shoot well from the floor against New York. If he struggles against the Heat, this series will be over sooner than we expected. David West remains the muscle in the Pacers front court attack. Indiana’s power forward averaged 15 points and 8 rebounds against the Knicks. West played heavy minutes, averaging 36 per contest.
LeBron James averaged 21 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists against the Pacers in three games this season – his second-lowest output against any team. James will use the now-squashed tiff between he and Pacers head coach Frank Vogel as motivation. James has been through the wringer against the physical Chicago Bulls. Despite their defensive prowess, the Pacers are paper lions in comparison to the Bulls. James may look to post up the Paul George in this series. One way to take George out of his game is to wear him down physically. Udonis Haslem battling David West should be your classic under the basket battle royal. Haslem is the most selfless player on the team and gets more satisfaction from shutting his man down as opposed to posting big numbers. If things get overly physical, Haslem has no problem policing the situation.
Roy Hibbert averaged 13 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks against the Knicks, including a memorable block in Carmelo Anthony in the series clincher. Hibbert will be more challenged in this series by the play of Chris Bosh. It would be wise for Hibbert to do the opposite and go as deep into the paint as often as possible. The Heat don’t have anyone physically to match Hibbert’s stature so the Pacers need to feed Hibbert in the paint. More than half of Hibbert’s rebounds against the Knicks came on the offensive glass.
Chris Bosh was good for 13 points, 9 rebounds and 2 blocks in the Bulls series. Bosh shot 50 percent from the floor in the series and held his own against Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah. Bosh will get help in dealing with Hibbert in the post, but will need to pick his spots on the floor where he can draw Hibbert out from under the basket.
This is where the Pacers will struggle in this series. The Indiana bench isn’t built for scoring as much as it is for defense. D.J. Augustin, Tyler Hansbrough, Sam Young and Ian Mahinmi blend in well with the first unit defensively, but need to give more on the offensive end. Miami’s bench is solid and are interchangeable to the point where they shouldn’t miss much with the second unit in the game. Shane Battier, Norris Cole, Chris Andersen, Ray Allen and Mike Miller are a starting five themselves with Rashard Lewis, Joel Anthony and James Jones ready to contribute.
Frank Vogel’s comments were harmless and were more about the media trying to stir the pot. Vogel knows his team is over matched and doesn’t need to add any billboard material. Vogel and his team respect the Heat, but don’t expect them to roll over by any measure. Vogel has to get his team motivated on the road — where they have struggled throughout the playoffs.
Erick Spoelstra has his team running on all cylinders — only a hiccup against the Chicago Bulls comes between the Heat and playoff perfection. Spoelstra wants to make quick work of the Pacers. A knock down drag out series doesn’t work to their advantage — considering the health of Dwyane Wade.
The Pacers lack of offensive depth will be their downfall in this series. Miami is loaded and should cause serious problems if snipers Ray Allen and Mike Miller are allowed to get into a groove. The Pacers starters could be overworked if there is no bench production — which plays into Miami’s hands. I can’t see Indiana winning in twice in Miami — they’ll be lucky to get one in South Beach.
Heat in 6.