The Miami Heat sound like a team that's primed for its Eastern Conference Finals series against the Indiana Pacers. This is one of the series fans of the game have been waiting for, and Dwyane Wade acknowledged as much, per Bleacher Report's Ethan Skolnick.
Wade: "There's a lot of story lines, but at the end of the day, it's good basketball."— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) May 16, 2014
Just what kind of good basketball remains to be seen. If the Heat have it their way, the series will be defined by their electric transition game. Indiana will look to slow games down with defensive pressure and all-out effort. CBSSports.com's Matt Moore reminds us that the regular-season meetings went accordingly:
The Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat split the season series 2-2 and it went exactly how you would expect. Both teams won their two home games and lost on the road. The Pacers won the ugly, grind-it-out games while Miami lost both games they failed to score 90 points. The Heat won both boatraces, as Indiana couldn't keep up offensively when the game opened up.
One of the big storylines Wade's referring to is that this is of course a rematch of the 2013 conference finals, a series the Heat took in seven games. There are some marginal roster differences this time, but the most notable change is that Indiana has home-court advantage.
Spoelstra on the key difference between this postseason & last: "We're starting on the road."— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) May 16, 2014
Wade: "if we can't win on the road, then we're not the team we think we are anyway. So we can't worry about a Game 7."— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) May 16, 2014
Will the series even make it to a Game 7?
The Pacers have been tested early and often in these playoffs, battling it out with the Atlanta Hawks for seven games in the opening round and allowing the upstart Washington Wizards to take them six games in the semifinals.
After a hot start to the season, the Pacers have been hit-or-miss ever since, struggling mightily in March and failing to make the most of their home-court advantage in the postseason. None of that matters to Wade and the Heat.
Wade said he didn't care what Indiana was going through. "We got our own set of problems to deal with."— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) May 16, 2014
Wade on Pacers' struggles at home in playoffs: "It doesn't matter when they play us."— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) May 16, 2014
You get the sense this is a team that's been here before, and it most certainly has. The Heat will look to build upon their record of success against the Pacers, and their confidence could go a long way toward accomplishing that. Miami seemed to flip a switch a few weeks back, and it's hard to imagine it letting up against the Pacers
Whereas Indiana has had some trouble putting teams away in the postseason, Miami advanced to these conference finals with an 8-1 record. Head coach Erik Spoelstra's club clearly has momentum on its side—and some rest. That could prove damning against a team that's exhausted itself to get this far.
Whatever happens, this is one of the Eastern Conference's most intriguing budding rivalries. While the Pacers haven't been themselves at all times, they remain the East's best hope of dethroning Miami. They'll host the Heat for Game 1 on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET. You can catch the opening action on ABC.