Sunday, May 18 at 3:30 PM ET at Bankers Life Fieldhouse

Game Preview: Pacers vs Heat, Game 1

Scott Agness | May 16, 2014 at 1:43 p.m.

Matchup

More than 11 months later, after 82 regular season games and 13 postseason contests, after their brilliant start and a concerning slide into the playoffs, the Pacers are exactly where they wanted to be all along: In the Eastern Conference Finals with a rematch against the two-time defending champion Miami Heat – and this time, they have homecourt advantage.

This is what the Pacers’ longed for back on June 3rd as they sat in their American Airlines Arena locker room after losing Game 7 in Miami. They firmly stated their beliefs in the months following that if Game 7 was on their court, they would have moved on to the NBA Finals. Now they have that opportunity, a golden one that can’t be taken lightly. Some of the league’s best fail to reach this moment even once in their professional career.

Indiana took heat (no pun intended) for stating their goal on the first day of training camp: to earn the conference’s top seed, and thus homecourt advantage. Just how critical is it in this matchup? The home team has won 12 of the last 14 meetings, including all four regular season games this season.

The Pacers lost Game 1 in their two previous series, but still managed to come back to win and advance. It is crucial, especially against the defending champions, for them to open the series with a victory. The Heat have won 14 of their last 15 best-of-seven playoff series when taking Game 1. The Pacers, meanwhile, are 10-2 all-time when doing so.

The Pacers are competing in the Conference Finals for the eighth time in NBA franchise history. They are 1-6 in the series of the past, four of which went to seven games. This series marks the third consecutive postseason that the Heat and Pacers have squared off.

To get to this point, No. 1 seed Indiana beat the Atlanta Hawks in seven games and then the Washington Wizards in six. No. 2 Miami handled their business in four fewer games, sweeping the Charlotte Bobcats and finishing off the Brooklyn Nets in five games.

At the center of this matchup is the world’s greatest player and four-time NBA Most Valuable Player, LeBron James. He’s second to only Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant in scoring this postseason, averaging 30 points per game – along with seven rebounds and almost five assists. He can’t do it all by himself, though.

All season long, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra managed the minutes of Dwyane Wade, who’s dealt with knee issues for a while, including last postseason. Wade, however, is coming off his best showing of the playoffs as he put 28 points on the Nets in their Game 5 series-clinching win on Wednesday. Get your popcorn, because Wade against Lance Stephenson is always a show.

Related: Pacers Need Lance-A-Lot

Roy Hibbert’s play inside will be huge, particularly on the defense. While they’ve won all five playoff games in which he’s reached double figures, his rim protection is most important, as usual. In their meeting on March 26th, he went off for 21 points – 13 in the first quarter and mostly paired against Greg Oden, who has yet to see the court this postseason. Containing James (easier said than done) is obviously priority number one and Paul George, along with Hibbert, play key roles in doing such.

Unlike the Pacers, the Heat have mixed up their lineups and rotations frequently. In their Second Round clash with the Nets, they went smaller. Against the Pacers, the ferocious Chris Andersen will have to play a larger role and Udonis Haslem, who’s been utilized minimally, is expected to receive more minutes. The power forward spot has been the Heat’s weakest when facing the Pacers, and David West has been there for the Pacers when called upon. He scored 18 of his 29 points, postseason career-high in a Pacers uniform, in the second half to pull Indiana to victory over the Wizards and move on to this postseason.

Indiana can’t turn the ball over, as Miami will make you pay with turnovers for touchdowns, and it has to get productive minutes out of its bench. Pacers coach Frank Vogel has had to lean heavily on the starters, and with more games added to their resume, they’ve had less time to rest.

The NBA’s final four is set and it’s no different than we all predicted at the beginning of the season: Pacers-Heat, Spurs-Thunder. Game 1 of the Pacers-Heat series is Sunday, May 18 at 3:30 p.m. ET. The NBA Finals begin on June 5th.

Probable Starters

George Hill

George Hill

Lance Stephenson

Lance Stephenson

Paul George

Paul George

David West

David West

Roy Hibbert

Roy Hibbert

Mario Chalmers

Mario Chalmers

Dwyane Wade

Dwyane Wade

LeBron James

LeBron James

Shane Battier

Shane Battier

Chris Bosh

Chris Bosh

Injury Update

Pacers: None
Heat: None

Quotable

“These guys have eliminated us two years in a row. We know what they’re capable of. We have great respect for them but we’re hoping to rise to the challenge.” – Frank Vogel on Miami

“We can’t (lose homecourt advantage) playing against the champions. We’ve battled all year long for this opportunity to go against the Heat in Game 7. By any means, we can’t allow ourselves to come out flat tomorrow.” – Paul George

“We got to have a little edge coming into this series. This team … ended our season early two times in a row so there’s got to be an edge to come out and take this team out.” – Paul George

“It was hard to deal with because we felt like we had a legitimately chance of getting by those guys.” – David West on their Game 7 loss in Miami last postseason

“I feel like we’re better. We’re smarter. We got more talented players. I think we’re ready this time and we just got to bring it and we got to show everybody. Not talk about it. Show it.” – Lance Stephenson on their difference over a year’s time

Noteworthy

  • The Heat have won all five postseason home games whereas the Pacers are 3-4.
  • Indiana is 7-0 when holding its opponent below 90 points and 5-0 when center Roy Hibbert scores 10 points or more.
  • The Heat are 13-0 in postseason games when ‘The Big Three’ combines for 70 points or more.
  • The Pacers are 53-3 this season when leading after three quarters.
  • ESPN’s NBA Countdown studio show, which features Sage Steele, former Pacers player Jalen Rose, coach Doug Collins and Bill Simmons, will originate on site at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Last Meeting

April 11: With playoff seeds still undetermined, the Heat pounded it on the Pacers in Miami, 98-86 the final. The Pacers, who lacked any kind of rhythm for much of the night, hung around in the first half and trailed by just three points at intermission. The Heat then broke the game open with a 20-2 run, including 16 straight points to open the second half. The Pacers later used a 13-0 run to trim it to nine. At that point, Miami called timeout, Indiana’s Evan Turner was whistled for a technical foul, and the champs tacked on another nine points in a row in their double-digit win.

It was the Pacers’ third loss in four games. Paul George scored 22 points and David West contributed 18 points and eight rebounds before fouling out. Roy Hibbert managed just five points and a rebound in 34 minutes. LeBron James scored a game-high 36 points and Udonis Haslem added 11 points and nine rebounds in his return from a stomach virus. Dwyane Wade and Greg Oden each sat out. shots.

Broadcast Information | Find Local Listings »

TV: ABC – Mike Breen (play-by-play), Jeff Van Gundy (analyst), Mark Jackson (analyst) & Doris Burke (analyst)
NOTE: FOX Sports Indiana will air a postgame show immediately following the conclusion of Game 2, hosted by Chris Denari, Quinn Buckner, and Brooke Olzendam./>

Radio: FM 107.5/AM 1070 The Fan, Pacers Radio Network – Mark Boyle (play-by-play), Slick Leonard (analyst), Kevin Lee (sideline reporter)
ESPN Radio: Marc Kestecher (play-by-play), Jon Barry (analyst) />

Tickets

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