Game Predictions for the Indiana Pacers vs. Miami Heat Eastern Conference Finals
Paul George vs. LeBron James.
Frank Vogel vs. Erik Spoelstra.
Nap Town vs. South Beach.
The last time these teams met in the postseason was a year ago, when the Heat edged the Pacers 4-2 in the second round after trailing 2-1.
They are practically polar opposites who are going to square off in what should be a competitive and memorable series for Eastern Conference supremacy.
Something has got to give.
The big question is, who will come out victorious?
Game 1: Heat 97, Pacers 92
Indiana Pacers coach Frank Vogel declared Roy Hibbert as the best rim protector in the game today.
He'll have his hands full against Chris Bosh, however.
Bosh has been shooting at a torrid pace during the playoffs, registering a 51.6 percent clip from the floor and 46.7 percent average from three-point distance, as per ESPN stats.
Coach Erik Spoelstra realizes Bosh's ability to make Hibbert pay for leaving him alone behind the three-point arc, so he encourages his center to shoot. He does and finishes with four triples to go along with nine rebounds.
Drawing Hibbert out of the shaded area works like a charm, lessening his ability as a rim protector and allowing LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to penetrate at will. The 2013 MVP finishes with 23 points and six assists while Wade, who seems to have recovered nicely from his knee injury, checks in with 19 points and four steals.
Game 1 was not actually a blowout.
The Pacers fight tooth-and-nail behind David West's 24 points and 11 rebounds. West has been one of the biggest thorns on Miami's side dating back to the regular season, fully imposing his will against overmatched Udonis Haslem.
Paul George has 19 points and nine rebounds of his own for the Pacers, but his five turnovers, including an errant pass with Miami on top 94-92 with a minute to play allows Bosh to nail a three-pointer from top of the key to seal the deal.
Heat 1, Pacers 0
Game 2: Pacers 90, Heat 84
Realizing he let Bosh off easy in Game 1, Roy Hibbert and the Indiana Pacers make some key adjustments.
Coach Vogel instructs Hibbert to defend Udonis Haslem while David West covers Bosh. West can quickly recover and get in Bosh's face should Haslem set a screen to free up his center for the three-pointer.
The result: Bosh wasn't as prolific as he was in the first game, finishing with only 10 points on 1-of-5 shooting from the three-point area.
Meanwhile, Hibbert registers a double-double of 21 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks. In the opening moments of the fourth quarter, his last block is on Dwyane Wade, who, in Carmelo Anthony-like fashion, tries a baseline dunk.
Hibbert recovers on a defensive switch off Haslem to swat Wade's shot, George Hill gets the loose ball and feeds Lance Stephenson for the easy layup in transition. This puts the Pacers, who battle back from a 10-point deficit, to within one point, 70-69.
Paul George, as erratic as his shooting has been, knocks down two trifectas in a one-minute span to put the Pacers up for good, 85-80.
The Heat's offense fizzles in the waning moments, thanks to the Pacers' tight defense. Indiana asserts its might on the boards, finishing with 51 to Miami's 37. The Pacers also make six free throws in the last minute to finish off the scoring.
LeBron James leads the way in scoring for Miami with 31.
Pacers 1, Heat 1
Game 3: Heat 101, Pacers 87
The law of averages catches up with the Indiana Pacers.
Coming into sold-out Bankers Life Stadium for Game 3, Indiana was previously undefeated in six postseason contests.
Ray Allen, the ageless Miami veteran, provides a spark the Heat desperately needed after the team's end-game implosion the last time around. Allen obliges with four three-pointers, shows Lance Stephenson how it's done and finishes with 16 points off the bench in a solid supporting role.
Aside from Allen, the other factor that does the Pacers in is their turnovers. They wound up with 21. Paul George leads the way with five, three of them unforced on several errant passes. He also struggles from the field, going 7-of-19 to finish with 19 points and nine rebounds.
George Hill chips in with 15 but hasn't really shaken off the effects of the concussion he suffered in Game 4 of the series against the New York Knicks, courtesy of a Tyson Chandler screen. He, just like Paul George, struggles. His shooting clip is a paltry 3-of-11.
On the other hand, Dwyane Wade wanted to make a statement after he got embarrassed by Hibbert in Game 2, and he does. He scores 26 points, knee issues and all. LeBron James ends up with 21 points, scoring several times on nifty pick-and-rolls which the Pacers were unable to stop.
Mike Epps is in the stands, hanging his head in dejection.
Heat 2, Pacers 1
Game 4: Pacers 104, Heat 95
David West goes off on his teammates after the team's sloppy play in Game 3.
The veteran was all fired up for Game 4, and he goes right to work from the opening tip. He finishes with 12 points in the first quarter, scoring on a variety of mid-range jumpers and low-post moves. West, as he did in the regular season, leaves Udonis Haslem befuddled.
West also does an admirable job of defending Chris Bosh from the perimeter. Bosh does nail two threes, but he misses three of them and doesn't really make a big impact in this game.
With Bosh trying to get going from the outside, this allows Roy Hibbert to play the role of rim protector to the hilt. He swats four Miami shots to go along with his 15 points and 14 rebounds. The Pacers dominate the Heat on the boards 51-36.
West scores 27 points, a performance reminiscent of his February 1 regular season performance against Miami, in which he makes 11 straight shots during one stretch and finishes with 30 points.
Paul George rebounds nicely from his Game 3 shooting woes and winds up with 21 points on 7-of-13 shooting that included three trifectas.
Norris Cole, who has shot the ball well in the playoffs, contributes 15 for the Heat. LeBron James leads the Heat with 28, but turned the ball over four times.
Pacers 2, Heat 2
Game 5: Heat 93, Pacers 77
Coming into Game 5, Indiana hopes to become the second team (after the Knicks) to defeat Miami on consecutive road trips to American Airlines Arena this season.
This doesn't happen.
The Heat, the best defensive team in the playoffs, give the Pacers a dose of their own medicine. Norris Cole, who has also stepped up defensively in the postseason, winds up with three steals. Chris Bosh rediscovers his shooting touch and finishes with 22 points with three three-pointers. Bosh also punctuates a solid all-around performance with 10 rebounds and three blocks.
Chris Andersen, who has gone largely unnoticed despite his stellar defensive play, finishes with seven points, eight rebounds and two blocks.
The Pacers, as solid as they are on defense, are having all sorts of issues on offense. The Indiana team which lost to the Knicks in Game 2 of their second round series resurfaces. Roy Hibbert has just six points but does finish with 11 rebounds and two blocks.
Miami, the league's worst rebounding team in the regular season, manages to narrow the rebounding gap. The Pacers still win the rebounding battle 43-39, but lose big as their shots don't fall. For the game, they shoot only 33.6 percent.
The Heat, on the other hand, conclude matters with a 45 percent shooting clip. Dwyane Wade has 24 points while LeBron James has 20.
Lance Stephenson hasn't shone in this series so far, although he leads the Pacers in scoring with 17. Paul George chips in with 15 while David West finishes with 11.
Heat 3, Pacers 2
Game 6: Heat 103, Pacers 99
It's win or go home for the Indiana Pacers.
Playing with their greatest sense of urgency, the Pacers actually establish a nine-point lead after the first quarter, 28-19. Roy Hibbert scores eight in the first 12 minutes of play.
However, they let the Heat back into it with turnovers and missed shots in the second quarter. LeBron James, once again taking advantage of Miami's vaunted pick-and-roll, scores 18 first-half points. Dwyane Wade is not far behind with 15 of his own, giving Lance Stephenson fits on defense.
Hibbert's offense is stymied and finishes the first half with 10 points. Paul George picks up the slack with 15. D.J. Augustin contributes two three-pointers off the Indiana bench (which has largely been non-existent in this series) in the first 24 minutes. Indiana by one, 50-49.
As the third quarter unfolds, LeBron James continues to go on a tear as he scores eight points to bring his scoring total up to 26. The Pacers are still having problems defending the pick-and-roll in spite of Paul George covering the reigning MVP. David West comes to life with seven points and five rebounds in the period. The Heat lead by only two, 79-77.
When the fourth quarter begins, Stephenson hits a three-pointer to give the Pacers back the lead. Paul George makes one of his own to give them more breathing room at 83-79.
However, the Heat go on an 8-0 run to take the lead for good. They go on an outside shooting spree of their own with James, Wade and Mario Chalmers all chipping in. Miami builds its lead to seven with only three minutes left to play. They melt the clock in the ensuing possessions to prevent the Pacers from mounting a comeback.
Final score: Heat 103, Pacers 99. Miami wins the series in six games.
The duo of James and Wade prove to be too much for Indiana to handle, as it did in last season's second-round playoff series. The Heat, with too much championship experience and firepower, move on to their third consecutive NBA Finals appearance.
The Pacers feel the sting of this loss. However, with their progress in the playoffs over the past three seasons, they are poised to make another run at the championship next year with a healthy Danny Granger in tow.
Heat 4, Pacers 2