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Pacers off on right foot in NBA playoffs for once over Heat

Hibbert, Hill part of team effort for Pacers
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The NBA playoffs have gone in different directions for the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers. Nevertheless, the Heat and Pacers are in the same place in the NBA playoffs for the second year in a row. Yet the Eastern Conference finals started far different for Indiana than last year's finals -- and different from this year's first and second round -- as it rolled over Miami for a 107-96 wire-to-wire victory.

The Pacers started off in front and never looked back, enjoying the kind of shooting touch it has rarely showed in these playoffs. The Heat did keep up at various points, yet they never had a big enough run. They cut the deficit to as little as four points in the second quarter, but the Pacers pushed it back up to 10 at halftime and up to 19 in the third quarter.

Nevertheless, it looked like the Heat were waking up when they closed to within nine points in the fourth quarter. Since no lead has really been safe in the NBA playoffs, and since Miami has had series altering comebacks over Indiana in the postseason before, the Pacers had to be weary. Yet unlike in Game 4 of the 2012 semifinals and Game 1 of the 2013 conference finals, the Heat couldn't rally back.

Unlike in their Game 1's against the Atlanta Hawks and Washington Wizards, the Pacers protected the home court advantage they fought for all year. Indiana fought for it for this exact reason, to have the edge it didn't have over Miami in the last two postseasons. For this one game, the strategy was validated.

The Pacers really took Game 1 because of a balanced scoring attack, as all five starters scored in double figures. In contrast, Dwayne Wade's 27 points and LeBron James' 25 points didn't receive much support. Nevertheless, the Heat have won every single series in the James/Wade/Chris Bosh era when they have lost Game 1.

The NBA playoffs have come easy for the Heat and nearly broken the Pacers so far, although it would be hard to tell from Game 1. But with Miami now having to face real adversity for the first time, will it be as resilient as Indiana has been thus far? Since the bad version of the Pacers can still come back at any moment in this postseason, the Heat can't be too dejected quite yet.

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