The 2014 NBA Conference Finals are set. The Miami Heat will face off with the Indiana Pacers in the East in a rematch from last year’s Conference Finals. In the West the Oklahoma City Thunder will battle the San Antonio Spurs. The top four teams in the regular season are the last teams standing – this is the way it should be.
Last year Indiana pushed Miami to the brink in an up and down 7 game series but fell short in the end. Indiana wants revenge, while Miami looks to make history and complete the three-peat. The difference between this season and 2013 is while Miami continues their dominant ways in the postseason the Pacers have looked extremely beatable in the 2014 playoffs.
Indiana was pushed near the verge of elimination by a struggling Atlanta Hawks team in the first round. The Pacers had to claw and fight to eliminate the Washington Wizards in round 2.
At the center, no pun intended, of Indiana’s struggles is Roy Hibbert. The two-time All-Star has grossly underwhelmed in the first two rounds of the playoffs. The 7’2” former Georgetown Hoya is averaging 8.5 points and 4.5 rebounds in the playoffs.
The Heat are the worst rebounding team in all of basketball, pulling down 36.9 boards per game in the regular season. This is due to the small lineup that Miami plays with. In the playoffs LeBron James not only led his team in scoring and assists, but also in rebounding with 7.1 a game.
With Miami’s deficiencies in the paint, the Pacers are going to need more than 8 points and four boards from Hibbert.
Hibbert and David West should feast upon Miami’s miniature frontline; the question is, will they? Hibbert found himself on the pine for much of the Atlanta series due to the Hawks small lineup. He can’t afford not to play against Miami if the Pacers want to advance to the NBA Finals.
The Heat slept walked through the latter part of the regular season and are playing the best basketball of any playoff team right now – proof that the regular season only matters a little.
Dwyane Wade is well rested from sitting out significant portions of the regular season and that’s all that matters to the Heat. With Chris Bosh playing at a high level, Wade rested, and LeBron being LeBron the Heat are poised to return to the NBA Finals for the fourth straight year.
I know the Pacers want to stop Miami’s run, but can they? It’s not looking good for Indiana. Despite having home court advantage they are still the underdogs going against the reigning champions. In the 2014 playoffs Miami is 8-1 -- the Pacers are 8-5. The Heat are simply playing better basketball. If Indiana really wants to erase the pain of falling to Miami in last year’s Conference Finals they’d better get their act together fast.
Game 1 takes place Sunday afternoon on ABC.