After an absurdly entertaining first round that saw five out of eight series go the full seven games, the Conference Semis were a bit less stormy–no series went beyond six games. Now we’re moving onto the penultimate round of the NBA postseason, and College Sports Town is providing previews for both the Eastern and Western Conference. We’re going to begin with a look at the Eastern Conference Finals, which, for the second straight year, is between the Miami Heat and the Indiana Pacers. Even though Indiana has struggled in the past few months, the matchup that everyone has eagerly anticipated since October is finally here. Last year, the series went seven brutal, heart-stopping games, and we expect no less exhilarating action this time around. With that being said, let’s dive in.
No. 1 seed Indiana Pacers vs. No. 2 seed Miami Heat
The two teams the Indiana Pacers beat to get to this point–the Atlanta Hawks and the Washington Wizards–were polar opposites. The gimmicky Hawks tried to shoot their way past Indiana (and almost did), while the youthful Wizards tried to take down the Pacers playing a traditional style at both ends. They rarely made it look easy, but the resurgent Pacers, who were slumping in a huge way entering the playoffs, dispatched both of their disparate opponents. As they enter the Conference Finals, the Pacers seem to have rediscovered some of the magic that made them the team to beat in the East for much of the regular season and, of course, the eventual top seed. There may be occasional questions about Indy’s chemistry and togetherness, but there is no doubt about the Pacers’ talent. Paul George is without question the Pacers’ superstar, an elite swingman with a nasty offensive game who doubles as arguably the league’s best defender. PG has been blazing hot in the playoffs, notably shredding the Wizards’ defense in Game 4 of the Quarterfinals, finishing with 39 points. But Indiana’s strength lies in their depth; they’ve got the excellent David West, a bruiser on both ends fresh off a 29 point performance in the decisive Game 6 against Washington, electrifying guard Lance Stephenson, and trusty point man George Hill. Then there’s the wild card that is Roy Hibbert. Hibbert had a nightmare first round against the Hawks, but played well against Washington. When he’s in a good place, the seven (plus) footer is a rock at both ends for the Pacers. Hibbert and Indiana seem to have rediscovered their footing, which is a scary proposition for Miami.
The Heat have been, to this point, mostly untested. They steamrolled Charlotte in the first round and didn’t have much trouble with the Brooklyn Seniors Club in the second round, rolling by the feisty Nets in five games. Lebron James- perhaps you’ve heard of him- is the driving force on this Heat squad. The rest of Bron Bron’s supporting cast is older and worse than it has been in their past couple of playoff runs, but the King is at the top of his game. He netted 49 in a spectacular Game 4 performance against the Nets. Lebron has been on fire, and he’ll look to remain that way against this dangerous Pacers team.
These two teams have met each of the last two postseasons, last year in the Conference Finals, with Miami winning both years. Each series has been tremendous, with the James-George matchup highlighting the battles between the two beasts of the East. It should be more of the same this time around. As for the pick, we’re going to put our faith in LeBron. Because we’re original like that. The Heat are headed towards their fourth straight NBA Finals appearance.
Pick: Heat in 7