They breezed through the Orlando Magic in the first round of the playoffs and, beginning Sunday, will face off against LeBron James and the mighty Miami Heat in second-round action. It’s a big mountain to climb for Indiana, but they certainly have the talent to do so.
Can the Pacers beat Miami in a seven-game series? Absolutely.
Will they? Well, that’s a totally different story altogether, but one thing is for sure: they have the right mix to do so.
Here’s a look at how they can get it done.
The Pacers are a much better rebounding team than the Heat, finishing fourth in the NBA (43.9 RPG) during the regular season.
The pressure will not only be on the likes of Roy Hibbert, David West and Danny Granger to control the glass, but the Indiana guards must rebound as well. Paul George is pulling down seven boards per game in the playoffs, so that’s a good sign.
Indiana has the ability to keep Miami off the offensive glass, and limiting Miami’s second-chance opportunities will be vital.
Indiana needs someone to perform like a superstar, and thus far in the postseason, Granger has answered the call, averaging 21.4 points per game.
The Pacers will need someone to put forth a heroic effort, and it might need to be Granger. The good news is that he’s on a roll, but the bad news is that Miami had success bottling Granger up this season, as he averaged only 13.3 PPG in four regular season matchups.
The Pacers will battle and fight, especially down on the block, but they can do the job defensively as well.
This is a matchup of two of the top 10 defenses in basketball. The Pacers should make things much harder on Miami to score than the New York Knicks did.
After a relatively easy series win against the Knicks, the Heat will be facing a team that will fight to the end and not go away. The Pacers held the explosive Heat offense to 93 points in an overtime loss and 90 points in a win during their past two meetings.
Hibbert must control the paint like he has so far in the postseason, blocking 3.8 shots per game, which is as much as the entire Heat team averages.
The Heat will kill the Pacers if it turns into a track meet, but Indiana does a good job taking care of the ball, so that could help in slowing down Miami’s transition game.
So far in the postseason, both George Hill (1.2 turnovers per game) and Darren Collision (0.2) have done a great job valuing the ball. That’s something that must continue for the Pacers to have a chance of pulling off an upset.
Miami averaged 9.4 steals per game in the first round against the Knicks. If the Pacers, as a team, take care of the ball and cut that number down by two or three steals per game, they have a good chance to slow the explosive Miami offense down.
Indiana is young and talented, with seven players on its roster under the age of 25.
There’s no pressure on these guys, and they haven’t been around long enough to feel intimidated by Miami’s Big Three.
They can match Miami athletically and have good team speed. Indiana’s also a much tougher team on the block, so expect them to attempt to exploit that advantage and shift the series in their favor.