The 2012 NBA playoffs have almost completely progressed through to the second round, with the Eastern Conference already in semifinal action. The Miami Heat and the Indiana Pacers will clash Sunday night in Game 1 with both sides desperate to start the series with a win.
The stakes are higher than they have been all season long and for a complete preview of the series, this is the place to be. So with that, let's get into it.
As the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, the Miami Heat will have home-court advantage for the series over the No. 3 seed Indiana Pacers.
|1||5/13/12||3:30 p.m. ET||at Miami Heat|
|2||5/15/12||7 p.m. ET||at Miami Heat|
|3||5/17/12||TBD||at Indiana Pacers|
|4||5/20/12||3:30 p.m. ET||at Indiana Pacers|
|5||5/22/12||TBD||at Miami Heat|
|6||5/24/12||TBD||at Indiana Pacers|
|7||5/26/12||TBD||at Miami Heat|
NBA Playoffs so Far: Miami Heat
The Miami Heat won their opening-round playoff series over the New York Knicks 4-1 with injuries to Iman Shumpert, Amar'e Stoudemire and Baron Davis crippling the Knicks' chances for success.
After dominating the opening two games at home, Miami went up 3-0 in the series with a road win in New York and clinched the series in Miami with a 106-94 win in Game 5.
NBA Playoffs so Far: Indiana Pacers
The Pacers dropped the opening match at home to the Magic 81-77, but then won their next four games, including two huge wins at home, to clinch the series.
Regular Season Encounters
The Heat and the Pacers met on four occasions during the regular season, with Miami holding a 3-1 advantage over their current opponents.
|1/4/12||Miami||Miami by 35 points.||118-83|
|2/14/12||Indiana||Miami by 19 points.||90-105|
|3/10/12||Miami||Miami by two points.||93-91|
|26/3/12||Indiana||Indiana by 15 points.||90-105|
Player to Watch This Series: Chris Bosh (Miami Heat)
But considering Indiana's rebounding abilities and strong big men, having a dominant presence in the paint will be critical for Miami's chances.
Thus enter Chris Bosh.
Bosh only averaged eight shots per game in the first round of the playoffs and must become more offensively involved in this one. Some of that responsibility will depend on the ball movement of Miami and inside defense of the Pacers, but if Bosh doesn't establish himself early, then the Heat may struggle against the Pacers' big men.
Likely to receive time at both center and forward this series, Bosh is currently above 50 percent shooting throughout the playoffs—averaging 15.0 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. The latter of those numbers could be tested against the rebounding strength of the Pacers, however.
Roy Hibbert and David West currently rank in the top 10 for rebounding this postseason with over 20 rebounds per game between them and could be a handful for Miami if Bosh doesn't step up on both ends of the court.
Key Question: Who Will Win the Rebounding Battle?
If the Pacers are to topple the heavily favored Miami Heat, then they'll need to do so by creating a dominant inside presence that allows their offense to thrive. Additionally, Indiana's defense must force Miami to play from outside.
Their big men—as mentioned before—have been strong so far in the playoffs, albeit against a depleted Orlando Magic roster. They need to now step it up another level and create the foundation for the Pacers to succeed on both ends of the court.
According to ESPN.com, the Pacers rebounding could have a huge advantage over the Heat, who have struggled to rebound effectively throughout the playoffs.
Indiana is currently averaging 13.2 offensive and 33.6 defensive rebounds per game in the playoffs, whilst only allowing 9.8 offensive and 28.6 defensive rebounds per game to its opponents. Do the math and you'll come out with an 8.4 rebound per game advantage for Indiana.
Miami, however, is averaging 9.8 offensive and 28.0 defensive rebounds per game in the playoffs and is allowing 12.4 offensive and 28.0 defensive rebounds per game to its opponents. Again, doing the math, the Heat is actually surrendering a 1.8 rebound per game advantage to its opponents.
Thus, according to the numbers, Indiana has a 10.2 rebound advantage per game over the Heat which when portrayed across the entire series, could be the difference between the conference finals and the end of the season.
Series Prediction: Miami Heat Wins the Series, 4-2.
Having said that, I'm still going with the Miami Heat to win the series. It says here that the Heat's spot in the conference finals will be locked up by the end of Game 6.
They've got the most dominant duo in the league in Wade and James. With their stifling defense and overwhelming offense, Dwyane and LeBron can hurt teams on either end of the court.
Indiana will no doubt push the Heat and will prove to many that the Pacers are a team to watch in the future—especially with the talent they boast in the paint. Ultimately, however, they will fall to a Miami side that is too determined, too focused and too strong to stop.
That's just my prediction; I'd love to hear your predictions and thoughts not just on the opening game, but on the entire series between the Miami Heat and the Indiana Pacers.