The NBA playoffs have gone through a few twists and turns. But technically, the NBA playoffs have gone exactly the way they were supposed to in the East, at least on paper. As everyone expected so long ago, the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers are starting another Eastern Conference final together on May 18, renewing the biggest rivalry the conference has to offer.
Not too long ago, the Heat and the Boston Celtics were the most heated rivals in the East. But once Miami knocked Boston off in 2012 en route to its first title, Indiana became its biggest obstacle. The Pacers took the Heat to seven games before falling short of the NBA finals last year, just as the Celtics did the previous year -- but both teams suffered from playing Game 7 in Miami.
This time around, the Pacers have home court advantage for Game 1 and a possible Game 7, as they wanted and slaved for all season. However, the NBA playoffs have proven that home court doesn't equal success for the Pacers, given that they are 3-4 in Indiana and have been blown out several times in front of their fans already. In contrast, Indiana has mainly stayed alive because of its success on the road, going 5-1 away from its fans.
On the other end, the Heat have won easily no matter what in this postseason, going 8-1 through two rounds. As such, it might merely be an upset if this series goes six or seven games, let alone if the Pacers win it.
The only remaining challengers for the Heat in these NBA playoffs are a collection of rivals. If they beat the Pacers like they did in 2012 and 2013, they will either face an Oklahoma City Thunder team they beat in the 2012 finals, or a San Antonio Spurs club they rallied against in the 2013 finals. Not one of these rivals know how to beat the Heat this time of year, no matter how much they've talked about trying -- Indiana most of all.
The accompanying slideshow breaks down the last Pacers-Heat conference final in 2013, back when Indiana was perhaps better equipped to upset Miami. Can the memories of last year inspire the Pacers to finally get back on track, now that they are where they wanted to be all along -- even if they stumbled to get there?