We need a miracle for our Western Conference Finals prediction (Memphis in six games) to come true. But we’ve still had an OK playoffs overall (9/12 correct, 4/12 exactly correct).
In the Eastern Conference Finals, we’re picking the Miami Heat in six games.
Miami is a juggernaut.
In the regular season they won 66 games (the 10th-most in NBA history), had the second best offence, and a top-10 defence. They also have the best player since Michael Jordan, championship experience, and a lethal offensive system that borders on unstoppable when it’s running right.
They are the overwhelming favourite to win it all.
But the Pacers are an elite defensive team that presents Miami with a handful of tricky match-ups. They are going to be competitive in this series, even if we don’t think they have a significant chance to win it.
Here’s what they have going for them:
1. Miami relies on three-pointers, and Indiana is great at stopping them.
When Miami’s offence is clicking, threes are raining down from all over the place. They were the second-best three-point shooting team in the league during the season (based on effective field goal percentage). They also attempted the sixth-most threes.
But Indiana is freaky good at defending the three-point line. They led the NBA in both makes per game and effective field possession during the regular season. They also held the three-happy Knicks to sub-40% three-point shooting in four of their six games.
Indiana doesn’t switch or trap, instead funelling all penetration to Roy Hibbert at the rim. Things will get dicey if Hibbert gets in foul trouble (which is might with LeBron and Dwyane Wade driving at him all game).
But at least Miami isn’t going to have the type of nutty three-point barrages that we saw from them throughout the regular season.
2. The rebounding battle could be a massacre.
Miami is a bad rebounding team. They play small ball and rely on LeBron James and Chris Bosh to grab boards.
Bosh will be thoroughly out-matched by Hibbert, and LeBron will have to spend a ton of energy getting pushed around by David West.
Indiana is one of the best offensive-rebounding teams in the NBA, Miami is one of the worst at preventing offensive rebounds. It’s going to be no contest on the boards, and in theory Indiana could generate enough extra possessions to off-set Miami’s overall offensive advantage.
But here’s the biggest reason why Miami will win beat them anyway:
Indiana turns the ball over like crazy.
Indiana’s defence was so good in the Knicks series that they were able to withstand an endless stream of turnovers.
George Hill is the one reliable ballhandler, and he’s really rusty after coming back from a concussion in Game 6.
Indy was one of the five most turnover prone teams in the league this year, Miami was one of the five best at forcing turnovers.
The Pacers cannot win unless they create more shots than the Heat by pounding the offensive glass. If they give away those second-chance opportunities by turning it over, Miami is just too efficient to stop on offence.
The Pacers are a very good team. Their defence and rebounding will steal a game or two against a Heat team that is prone to day-dreaming through playoff games against seemingly inferior opponents.
But Miami is historically good. There are too many ways they can beat Indiana. We can’t see them losing unless someone gets hurt.
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