The Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers are getting ready to face off in the NBA Playoffs for the second straight year, and you can be sure it's going to be a physical series.
Both clubs feature synergistic rosters loaded with talented players, but there's no doubt which team has more experience in pressure situations. According to ESPN Stats & Info, only one player on the Pacers roster has ever been in a Conference Finals before this year:
Only one Pacers player has ever played in a Conference Finals before: Ian Mahinmi.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 19, 2013
Last year the Heat defeated the Pacers in six games in the Conference Semifinals, winning the first three, losing two and then closing out the series at home in Game 6.
This year, however, Indy has won two of the three head-to-head contests between these two clubs, and given the way the Pacers have played thus far in 2013 this series will be an all-out battle.
Here is a sneak peek at the biggest matchups in this series, which begins on Wednesday, May 22, at 8:30 p.m. ET on TNT.
Paul George vs. LeBron James
It's going to be seriously fun watching these two players go mano-a-mano for potentially seven games.
Nobody can match what James does overall for the Heat, but George has been nearly as brilliant an all-around player as King James during these postseason games.
In 12 games during the playoffs, George is averaging 19.1 points, 8.3 rebounds, five assists, 1.8 steals and 0.6 blocks per game. In every category besides blocks he's putting up better numbers than he did during the regular season.
Can George stop James from dominating in this series?
George matches up well with James from a size perspective, which is hard to do. Granted, James has at least 30 pounds on him, but George has the athleticism and speed to give him a hard time on defense.
The last time these two players met on the court was in mid-March. They canceled each other out, essentially, as James scored just 13 points and George scored 10.
If George can somehow harass James into making some bad shots or turnovers, Indiana has a chance to pull off a huge upset.
Roy Hibbert vs. Chris Bosh
These two players feature contrasting styles and strengths, and watching them attempt to counter one another's strong points will be fascinating.
Bosh is a highly skilled big man who is just as capable of hitting 18-foot jumpers as he is maneuvering for shots in the paint. His length and skill inside makes him an adept shot-blocker, but he'll be going up against a strong opponent inside against Hibbert.
Which big man will have a better series?
Hibbert is much more of a natural banger, and his shot-blocking presence inside will certainly be a huge factor in this series. He averaged 3.2 blocks per game against the New York Knicks and will challenge James and the other Heat players every chance he gets.
Bosh will struggle to box out Hibbert down low, but Hibbert will struggle to keep up with Bosh on the perimeter—especially in pick-and-roll situations.
If Hibbert manages to disrupt Bosh's shooting touch, however, he'll take away the second-leading scorer on Miami's roster during the playoffs.
Should Bosh somehow keep Hibbert from owning the glass, it'll turn into more fast-break points for the Heat.
George Hill vs. Miami's Backcourt
Hill will be matched up with different Heat guards throughout the series.
Mario Chalmers will really struggle to contend with Hill's quickness and speed, as will Dwayne Wade on his gimpy knee.
Hill can break defenses down by penetrating into the paint, where he can either finish with authority or find an open teammate for an uncontested jumper.
Will Hill's athleticism and quickness be a problem for Miami?
His biggest strengths, however, can be found on the defensive side of the ball, where Hill's long arms and athleticism allow him to wreak havoc on opposing shooters.
Second-year point guard Norris Cole might see a heavy dose of Hill in this upcoming series, as he has the size and athleticism necessary to defend the gifted player.
In all reality, however, the Heat will be throwing the kitchen sink at Hill to see what works, just as the Pacers will do to James on the other side.
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