Hey! Wake up! Don't you realize that the Eastern Conference finals are finally here?
The Heat haven't played since May 15, when they defeated the Chicago Bulls 94-91 to complete a 4-1 series victory. The last time they had as long of a layoff came after they were forced to wait for the Bulls and Brooklyn Nets series to conclude after already defeating the Milwaukee Bucks in a sweep.
Miami dropped Game 1 at home against Chicago but won the next four to finish off the Bulls.
Indiana faced a stronger opponent in the New York Knicks and needed six games to dispel of the Carmelo Anthony-centric roster. The Pacers used their strong interior presences to command respect on both sides of the court, resulting in high-percentage shots on offense and contested shots on defense.
New York was able to score over 100 only once. They broke triple digits less often than they scored under 90 points, which occurred in a three-game stretch between Games 3 and 5 that resulted in Indiana taking a 3-2 series lead and eventually winning 106-99 in the clincher.
These two teams are no strangers to each other and have been a part of a number of intense matchups, mostly coming in last year's conference semifinals. Miami won the series 4-2, but not before seeing Chris Bosh get hurt early in Game 1, the Heat implode on the sidelines in a Game 3 loss and incredible instances of teamwork between Wade and James to put the series on ice.
The series featured a number of altercations, including several involving Danny Granger for some reason, and Lance Stephenson and Juwan Howard jawing at each other pregame after Stephenson's gesture the previous game, as well as a later flagrant foul resulting from Lance's mistake.
And how can we forget the pleasantries exchanged by Tyler Hansbrough and Udonis Haslem? For a team that's accused of flopping and being soft, the Heat have been at the center of some of the more intense altercations in recent NBA postseason history.
Miami now features Ray Allen and Chris "Birdman" Andersen, who replaces the role of Ronny Turiaf, as well as Bosh, who missed all but one half of their six-game series with Indiana last year. Meanwhile, the Pacers are without Danny Granger due to injury and have since replaced Darren Collison, Lou Amundson and Leandro Barbosa with D.J. Augustin, Ian Mahinmi and Gerald Green.
The Pacers have also seen excellent development from Paul George and Lance Stephenson.
Indiana won the regular-season series 2-1, but that means nothing at this point. The playoffs, especially this deep, are a completely different game that features teams at their best and capable of making adjustments on the fly.
The Heat have yet to fully exert themselves, because why do they need to, and the Pacers may finally be the team to break them out of this sleepwalking spell and focus on playing for a complete 48 minutes.
A significant challenge will always bring the best out of Miami, and this Indiana team is going to bring it not just with an extremely disciplined defense, but also with the sting from last year's postseason loss to Miami still looming.
Indiana is still convinced they were the better team that series. They might have missed their only chance to take advantage and defeat the Heat, because seeing them beat out this Heat team four times out of seven (the Heat have won 45 of their past 49 games) is something that would deserve to become a movie by Disney.