Indiana gave Miami a run for their money in the playoffs last year when the Heat beat them 4-2, however those numbers do not reflect how close Miami were to losing that series.
During the games in which they played each other last year in the regular season, Miami won three and lost one. This season Indiana have beaten Miami twice in just two games.
There are several major areas where Indiana have an advantage over the Heat.
First of all, the Pacers have a size advantage over Miami. The 7′ 2″ Roy Hibbert and 6′ 10″ small forward Paul George are more than big enough to pose a threat to the Heat who don’t have a player over 7 feet.
Indiana are an extremely athletic team that match up well against the super athletic Heat. Every single Pacer player provides energy and effort that many teams lack, just look at what Tyler Hansbrough does when he comes into the game – his nickname is “Psycho T” for a reason.
There is one key area where Indiana have a big advantage over Miami – rebounding.
Indiana averages the second most rebounds in the NBA, compare this with Miami who rank last in this category, and it becomes clear Indiana have the edge. Such an important factor as rebounding has a huge impact on games, especially over a seven game series.
Another area where Indiana excel is defence. The Pacers are the number one defensive team in the NBA by a long way. This is partially due to the fact that their players are so athletic and long. This season Indiana have held Miami under 90 points in one game and under 80 points in another game – well below Miami’s average scoring rate of over 100 points per game – and beaten Miami by a total of 23 points over the two games they have played this season
The Heat struggle against top defensive teams and have a less than impressive 2-4 record against top 5 defensive teams this season. One of these wins came against a San Antonio Spurs team who were without all five starters and nearly half of their team made up of rookies. This suggests that Miami will struggle in a seven game series against Indiana, the best defensive team in the NBA.
Last season the Pacers were the 10th best defensive team in the NBA and it took heroic efforts from Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, (they combined for 70 points, 27 rebounds and 15 assists in one game) along with 14 points from Udonis Haslem to overcome Indiana in the 2012 playoffs. Miami will need scoring from elsewhere but it is not clear who will provide the extra scoring. Ray Allen seems the likely candidate however he has not scored any points in the two games against Indiana this season, whereas Haslem has not scored more than ten points in a game this season.
There are numerous reasons that suggest Miami should lose to the Pacers in a playoff series, particularly since the Heat have been playing worse this season than last. Miami may be saving themselves for the playoffs but it does not look encouraging for them at the moment, even though they have the best record in the East. Nonetheless, you can never dismiss a team with 3 time MVP LeBron James, remember how he single handily carried Cleveland every year in the playoffs and even made the finals on one occasion?