The Miami Heat will play the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night in game one of this best of seven Eastern Conference Finals series. Tip off is scheduled for 8:30 (EST) and the game will be televised on TNT.
This will be a rematch of the Eastern Conference semifinals last year where the Pacers had the Heat right where they wanted them, as they were up 2-1 after the first three games of the series. But superstar Dwayne Wade and MVP LeBron James double handily took over the next three games and sent Indiana packing, while the Heat advanced into the next round and later winning the NBA Championship.
The feud between the two teams have already began, even before a game has been played. Indiana’s head coach Frank Vogel had this to say about the defending champions after his team clinched their first Eastern Conference Finals appearance since 2004:
“It’s exciting, but this is not about getting back at Miami. If you’re in the final four you’re competing for a championship. And they’re just the next team that’s in our way. That’s how we’re approaching it.”
LeBron James then decided to defend his Miami Heat teammates. James said:
“We’re not just another team. I don’t understand what he’s saying. But we’re not just another team. That’s not true. He said we’re just another team in their way. We’re a great team. If we’re just another team, you really don’t prepare for just another team. You have to prepare for us.”
Vogel later apologized for his comments, but with the history of these two teams, I think it’s safe to say the apology was not accepted, and Vogel would probably have it that way too. Vogel is a confident coach and he knows his Pacers players will back up his words.
But the Pacers will need to be confident, because in terms of experience, Miami Heat wins that category by a landslide.
According to an article on ESPN.com, only one current Pacers player has ever appeared in a conference-final game, and that was backup big man Ian Mahinmi, who played exactly 71 seconds in one game of the 2011 West title series without so much as taking a shot.
For Miami, this marks five East finals appearances in nine years for Wade and Udonis Haslem. For LeBron James, it’s a fifth trip to this round in the past seven years, now three straight with Miami after a pair of trips to the East finals with Cleveland. For Ray Allen, it’s a fourth East title-round trip in six years, the first three of those coming with Boston.
But the Pacers do one-up Miami in the categories of size and strength. Expect the Pacers big men to give the Heat’s big men problems all series long. Indiana ranks first in team rebounds with 54.8, whereas Miami ranks last in team rebounding, averaging 46.7 a game.
That doesn’t mean I don’t expect Miami to win the series, although if there was any team that can beat them it would be Indiana because of their height advantages (and Memphis, but they have to beat SanAntonio first). Expect a physical series between these two teams and a lot of technical fouls being called, seeing that both teams already have a hatred towards one other even when a second of a game has yet to be played.
I do expect Miami to take game one of this series. I believe Vogel’s comments will spark Miami to come out strong in the beginning and hold off this grind-it-out Pacers squad. The final score of game one will be 105-91, in Miami Heat’s favor.