How scared should the Heat be of Indiana?

After an early season blip that saw the defending champs lose to the 76ers, Celtics and Nets in the first two weeks of their schedule, things seem to be back on track down in South Beach.

LeBron is steamrolling through teams showing that there truly is no limit to his production on either of the floor and D-Wade is looking explosive when he’s actually on the court.

Wade and the coaching staff have one eye on the playoffs already making sure he doesn’t play back-to-back games, only featuring in 11 of the 14 games so far but whenever he actually starts he averages 33mpg. As opposed to other veterans in the league like Tim Duncan and KG who choose to play every game but in a limited minutes role Wade still likes to play with the authority and intensity of a star, just not all of the time.

So how scared should Miami be of an Indiana team edging the Heat out of the power rankings?

Do the Pacers harm their long term aspirations with the early season blowouts they’re inflicting on every team put in front of them or is it just the arrival of a new top team in the NBA?

Indiana no doubt are looking to the playoffs and getting the job done in the East this year but they’re just killing the regular season right now.

Roy Hibbert is almost locked in as the defensive player of the year just 14 games in barring any sort of injury issue, averaging close to 4.5 blocks a game (and not even jumping to swat them down), his dominant defensive displays are the reason his side is leading the league in opponent points allowed.

Paul George might be the one getting the headlines as the emerging star and deservedly so but his supporting cast is the reason why Indy has shot out ahead of the rest, reality check though, it was also the reason they didn’t make it past game 7 of the conference finals last season. This however is a very different team to the one that suffered at the hands LeBron last season.

The addition of Scola and the emergence of guys like George Hill and Lance Stephenson becoming top level NBA players have given this team the edge over a Miami side that has fitness concerns in the starting and secondary unit. If you can limit the Heat’s three point effectiveness like the Pacers are currently doing to other teams with the improved wing defensive capability of George, Hill and Stephenson then it only takes LeBron to not produce his 100% best and Pacers are likely to get the better of them over seven games.

Paul George is clearly becoming one of the elite players of the NBA (getting recognition throughout the basketball community as he gets his first cover issue for SLAM this month), he’s proving capable enough on the offensive end to put down nearly 25 points a night and at the same time will guard (to a high standard) the best attacking outlet on the opposition. What does this lead teams to try in retaliation? Start playing big to under the rim to reduce George’s threat, but with Hibbert and West in and around the basket no team is yet to find any sustained weakness of this Pacer line-up.

A lot of us came into the season with some wary optimism of a revival from the Eastern conference outside of the Pacers and Heat but it’s proving once again to be extremely weak and disappointing. Knicks and Nets are struggling to get it together, Detroit lack any identity, Cleveland have proved that there Bynum gamble was a poor roll of the dice and Chicago are…just unlucky.

Minnesota is currently 11th in the West at 8-8, a record good enough to earn them the 3rd seed right now in the East.

Indiana and Miami have clearly made it a two horse race to a finishing line that becomes less and less significant as the season rolls on, come February time both teams will be looking at how to ensure their roster is fully rested and healthy in time for the playoffs rather than locking up the one seed especially when the other 13 teams below them are so inferior right now.

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