This series has the potential to be very competitive. Recently, the Pacers have played well against the Heat. Indiana battled Miami every step of the way before losing in six games in last year's Eastern Conference semifinals. This season, they met three times with Indiana, winning two.
In order for the Pacers to advance, they have to mold those flashes of brilliance into consistent play.
Winning the series will be a tall task for Indiana. Miami is playing arguably its best basketball since the arrival of the Big 3. Because the Pacers have played well against the Heat, confidence shouldn't be an issue, but it will take more than that to eliminate Miami.
This slideshow will detail what Indiana must do to beat the Heat and get to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2000.
The Pacers were the top rebounding team in the regular season and are currently the best in the playoffs. They grab the most rebounds per game (47.3) and have the number one rebounding rate (pulling down 55.3 percent of opponent's missed shots). Their per game rebounding differential of +9.8 is another playoff category in which they rank first.
This dominance of the glass must continue against the Heat.
Rebounding is key when facing Miami because it limits second chance opportunities. LeBron James and company are too good for Indiana to allow them extra chances.
Who do the Pacers need to step up in order to enhance the team's rebounding efforts? Hint, it's not Roy Hibbert.
Try Lance Stephenson.
He has been the backcourt rebounding presence this team will continue to need (8.1 RPG in playoffs). If there is going to be someone that can cancel out the rebounding prowess of LeBron James (7.30 RPG in playoffs), it's Stephenson.
In Game 4 of Miami's series with the Chicago Bulls, Dwyane Wade bumped knees with Chicago's Jimmy Butler. Since, his health has been a question. He's received extensive treatment and had plenty of days off, but that doesn't mean he will be 100 percent.
If Wade isn't at full strength, the Pacers must take advantage. Most likely, he is going to be a step slower, which should affect his defense.
Wade is going to be tasked with defending Lance Stephenson. There is no way the Heat can afford to put an ailing Wade on Paul George. He will have to be under the watch of LeBron James.
The Pacers must stick to the defensive strategy they used against the Knicks, which as Jared Wade of eightpointnineseconds.com shows, is to limit three-point attempts. The key to this strategy is Paul George guarding LeBron James. Indiana cannot fall into the temptation of double-teaming the league MVP.
The Pacers have to be confident in George after he proved he could handle an elite talent like Anthony. He only shot 43% (65-of-150) against the Pacers and looked frustrated for most of the series.
George defended Anthony so well because he is excellent at getting through screens and was able to funnel him to the middle where Roy Hibbert was waiting. James is going to beat George off the dribble from time to time.
If Indiana starts double-teaming, this series will not last long. The Heat, especially James, are too good of passers (23.1 APG in playoffs). They will find the open man. Shooters like Ray Allen, Norris Cole and Mario Chalmers will punish the Pacers if left open.
Indiana must stay true to its assignments and allow James to take contested shots at the rim and mid-range jumpers, instead of letting him find open teammates for three-pointers.
Turnovers have plagued the Pacers. They have given it away more than any other remaining playoff team (15.9 per game).
The opposing defense Indiana will now face is playing at an elite level, allowing opponents to shoot only 40.9 percent. Miami's defense is relentless and forces opponents to make mistakes. It forced the fifth most turnovers during the regular season, and what did it do with all of those mistakes?
During the regular season the Heat scored 1524 points off of turnovers. That was good enough for third best in the NBA. Turnovers allow Miami to get out in transition, where they produce highlight reel plays.
If Indiana is to be competitive in this series, it must protect the basketball. The Pacers can't afford to give away possessions to the defending NBA champs.
The starting five for Indiana are statistically one of the league's best. In the regular season when George Hill, Lance Stephenson, Paul George, David West and Roy Hibbert were on the floor together, they were the second highest scoring lineup in the league (39.6 PPG), per NBA.com.
The problem is the lineup can't stay on the floor all game. The bench will have to produce like it did against the Knicks for Indiana to have a chance.
In Game 1, D.J. Augustin was an offensive spark, scoring 16 points. Tyler Hansbrough (3 PTS, 3 REB) and Ian Mahinmi (2 PTS, 4 REB) provided a boost in Game 3. D.J. Augustin stepped up again in Game 4 with 11 points. Finally in Game 6, Sam Young was influential (5 PTS, 5 REB) in just nine minutes of action.
The key second unit players in this series will be Hansbrough and Mahinmi. The Pacers have made it a point to always have West or Hibbert on the floor. If Hansbrough and Mahinmi don't play well, West and Hibbert must check back in on short rest, which will take its toll throughout the game and the series.
Keeping those two fresh is essential for Indiana due to their ability to defend, rebound and score in the low post against a smaller Heat team.