Tonight Miami Heat will take on Indiana Pacers in game 1 of the 2nd round of the playoffs. Miami will have home court advantage throughout the series, and will start at home.
In the regular season series Miami came up with several great performances against the Pacers, winning 3 games and dropping 1. In the playoffs, however, everything changes so let’s quickly evaluate how both teams got through to the second round.
After game 1 in Miami, it was clear that the Knicks did not stand a chance, and Miami closed out the series back in South Beach in game 5. It certainly did not seem like New York had what it takes to challenge the Heat to a competitive and close series. Despite offensive struggles and a couple of hiccups, Heat put their excellent defense on display in every single game.
Indiana faced Orlando in the first round, a series that might have been extremely competitive and exciting to watch if not for Dwight Howard’s injury. Relying solely on perimeter shooting, Orlando did not have enough firepower to beat the Pacers, despite stealing game 1 in Indianapolis. Following game 1 Indiana won 4 straight to close out the series.
Game 1 is arguably the most important game of the series. You want to come out and set a statement, and that’s what Miami will attempt to do. Miami’s struggles on the road makes it that much more important to protect home court and win the first 2 games.
The league MVP LeBron James will have to continue his dominance on both sides of the floor. Pacers do not have anyone who can match up with James, so a lot of the offense will have to run through him. Wade is going to have to continue having scoring spurts, and being the best shot blocking guard in the league, he is going to have to shut down the deep back court of Indiana.
Keys to the game
Indiana has a deep back court, and will try to use that to their advantage. Darren Collison has been coming off the bench in the series against Orlando, and had an efficient 9-10 shooting in game 5. Leandro Barbosa hasn’t had the best playoffs so far but he is a potent scorer. The biggest mismatch is at the 5 spot, where the 7”2 Roy Hibbert has a significant height advantage over the Heat bigs. Indiana will try to crash the boards, something they had trouble doing against Miami in the regular season, but have done well so far in the playoffs.
Miami has so far shown amazing defense, which will make it difficult for Indiana. LeBron James has been on fire, taking over games at will. There is no way Danny Granger can stop James, and will need a lot of help. James has to continue finding teammates out of double-teams, and you can count on Miller and Chalmers to get their share of open threes. If the offense flows and the Heat can move the ball well Indiana might be in for a long, frustrating night.
Indiana’s biggest strength (and weakness) is that they have multiple guys that can give you 20 to 25 points on a given night. If they want to beat the Heat, several of those players will have to step up. The leading scorer, Granger, will likely face the impeccable defense of James, and his efficiency should drop significantly. David West has shown flashes of his All-star form, and can potentially be dangerous.
It is unlikely that Indiana can pull off an upset here. To even stand a chance they will need to make it an ugly and physical game. West and Hibbert will need to come up big for Pacers, especially if the shots aren’t falling. They will need to knock down threes and get a nice spark off the bench from Collison and Barbosa.