Apr 30, 2012; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers forward David West (21) and guard George Hill (3) celebrate against the Orlando Magic during the second half of game two in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana defeated Orlando 93-78. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-US PRESSWIRE

Round 2 Playoff Series Preview: Miami Heat vs. Indiana Pacers

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Indiana (42-24) vs. Miami (46-20)

Series Schedule:

Indiana @ Miami (Sunday, May 13, 3:30 PM)

Indiana @ Miami (TBD)

Miami @ Indiana (TBD)

Miami @ Indiana (TBD)

Indiana @ Miami (if necessary, TBD)

Miami @ Indiana (if necessary, TBD)

Indiana @ Miami (if necessary, TBD)

Key Stats:

Indiana                                                       Miami

97.71 PPG                                                  98.49 PPG

43.8 % FG                                                  43.4% FG

36.8% 3PT                                                 35.9% 3PT

18.61 APG                                                  19.96 APG

43.88 RPG                                                 41.61 RPG

Matchups (playoff statistics)

Point Guard

Indiana                                                       Miami

George Hill                 vs.                          Mario Chalmers

14.2 PPG, 44.7% FG, 42.9% 3PT        11.8 PPG, 1.6 SPG, 41.7% 3PT

George Hill showed his toughness and clutch-shooting acumen in the Pacers’ first round series with Orlando, but he also showed why he’s yet to lock down a permanent starting point guard gig in the NBA through four seasons. He averaged only 2.4 assists per game in the series, and his assist:turnover ratio, which was little short of amazing during his starting run to end the regular season, was a pedestrian 2:1 vs. the Magic. Still, he’s arguably the Pacers’ best perimeter defender and despite his youth, a valuable leader in the Pacers’ locker room. Hill spent time chasing Jameer Nelson throughout the first round series, and held him to under 40% field goal shooting. He may spend time on Chalmers this series, but will likely also get a crack at Dwyane Wade, the Heat’s best pure scorer. He’s on a different level than Chalmers though. Chalmers, like Hill, is not a distributor, but he doesn’t need to be. What he does well is knock down open threes and use his quick hands and craftiness to frustrate his opponents on defense. Hill will have to help his teammates in defensive support, while not straying too far from Chalmers, who can be deadly from beyond the arc.

Advantage: Pacers

Shooting Guard

Indiana                                                                   Miami

May 9, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat shooting guard Dwyane Wade (3) is fouled by New York Knicks small forward Steve Novak (16) during the second half of game five in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at the American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Paul George                vs.                                    Dwyane Wade

9.4 PPG, 1.0 SPG, 2-17 3PT shooting         21.0 PPG, 4.0 APG, 56.7% FT

No Pacer underachieved more during the Orlando series than George, the Pacers’ promising second-year guard, who apparently still has a lot to learn. George’s numbers were down across the board vs. the Magic, and he looked lost at times on defense, and disinterested and timid on offense. That won’t fly against Wade, the Heat’s All-NBA shooting guard, who struggled mightily during his first round series as well. Expect a bounce-back from Wade, who averaged 9 trips to the free throw line during the regular season but only saw the charity stripe 6 times per game vs. New York in the opening round. On top of that, Wade (a 77% FT shooter during the regular season) shot a putrid 57% in round one. Don’t, however, expect much of a bounce-back from George. The young’un is still learning how to play at an NBA pace, and even though he towers over Wade, the crafty, elusive Miami All-Star will abuse George if he’s not extra careful. Expect plenty of help from Danny Granger, Hill and even Dahntay Jones, but don’t expect it to make much of a difference. Wade will get his.

Advantage: Heat

Small Forward

Indiana                                                               Miami

Danny Granger               vs.                           LeBron James

21.4 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 3:5.3 assist:TO       27.8 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 5.6 APG

Danny Granger struggled through the first two games of the Orlando series, but turned into an animal over the final three, averaging 24 points on 47% FG shooting in those games. He also knocked down 11-26 three point field goals in those three, after going just 3-14 in the first two. Unfortunately, no matter how well Granger plays, he’ll never be a match for LeBron James, arguably the best overall player in the world. James’s numbers this regular season were staggering, and he kept up generally the same dominant sort of line in round 1 vs. New York, but in two fewer minutes per game. Granger will likely see most of his minutes shadowing James. While Granger isn’t the defender Pacers fans once hoped he would become, he’s the closest thing Indiana has to an answer for James. With his uncanny vision and sheer physicality, James will have little trouble scoring on Granger in one-on-one situations, and when the Pacers double-team him, James will make them pay with crisp, impossible-seeming passes. It will be a very short series unless Granger and his Pacer teammates can find a way to make James settle for jumpers, or punish him when he penetrates.

Advantage: Heat

Power Forward

Indiana                                                       Miami

David West                      vs.                     Udonis Haslem

15.8 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 39.4 MPG             3.8 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 38.9% FG

Udonis Haslem is basically a poor man’s David West, in that he lacks ideal size and athleticism, but attempts to make up for it with strength, solid rebounding positioning and on offense, 15-foot jumpers. West was disappointing for most of the year, especially on offense where he averaged just 12.8 points (the lowest scoring average of his career as a regular starter). But West has turned up the intensity and production in the playoffs, upping his points and rebounds per game by three a piece. Additionally, he’s logging nearly 10 more minutes per game than he did in the regular season, and has shown no signs of wear or anything resembling a conditioning problem, which indicates that he may be finally fully rehabbed from his late-season ACL surgery of last year. If so, West could be an X-factor in this series, as he matches up nicely with Haslem, and is much stronger and more aggressive than Chris Bosh. West will struggle with Bosh’s face-up game, as he tends to with other athletic power forwards, but could make up for that by trumping Bosh’s strength and intensity with his own firey presence.

Advantage: Pacers

Center

Indiana                                                       Miami

Roy Hibbert                     vs.                   Chris Bosh

11.0 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 3.8 BPG              15.0 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 51% FG

Roy Hibbert was one rebound shy of an uncanny 55 points and 55 rebounds during the Orlando series (weird, since, you know, he wears number 55…). He was solid, but unspectacular as

May 9, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat power forward Chris Bosh (1) is fouled by New York Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony (7) during the second half of game five in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at the American Airlines Arena. Miami won 106-94. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

a whole on offense, but really shined for a couple moments, while shrinking in a couple others. Glen Davis was able to easily body Roy out of position, and the Magic’s general game plan was to keep the big fella from camping out near the hoop on defense, and it generally worked (though Roy still averaged a double-double and protected the rim better than anyone else in the playoffs). Miami will employ the same strategy. Hibbert will see time facing up with Bosh, Haslem and Joel Anthony, and the Heat will use Bosh and Haslem to stretch the floor, and keep Hibbert from disrupting shots at the rim. Conversely, Hibbert, when matched up with any of those three, has an obvious size and strength advantage on offense, and if he executes will have his way with all of them. Unfortunately it’ll be an uphill climb mentally and emotionally for Big Roy if he gets off to a rough start, and that may be the difference. Bosh, who looks like an ostrich (and hides his head like one on the glass, from time to time) cannot possibly hope to go blow for blow with Hibbert, but he can frustrate him on defense with his shooting and face-up game, which could effect Hibbert negatively on the other end of the court. Hibbert is very capable of dominating this matchup, and it will be the most important one of the series, but the Heat have had success against him this year, holding him to 42% FG shooting in four games, and they’ll look to duplicate that this series.

Advantage: Even
Bench

Indiana                                                       Miami

Leandro Barbosa                      vs.         Shane Battier

Tyler Hansbrough                                   Joel Anthony

Darren Collison                                        Mike Miller

Lou Amundson

The Miami bench is its obvious Achilles heel. The Heat have literally no true difference-makers in their 8-man rotation outside of “The Big Three,” let alone any discernible bench depth. The entire team is devoid of dangerous three-point shooters outside of Chalmers, who relies exclusively on open catch-and-shoots. In theory Mike Miller and Shane Battier can add some much-needed three point shooting, but they’ve been inconsistent on the year. Miller has shot efficiently, but at a low-volume, and Battier has been utterly non-existent on offense. Both were streaky in the Knicks’ series and remain unreliable. Anthony is a physical defender, but gives up too much size on the inside to the Pacers’ bigs to give much pause. No, the Pacers’ one true advantage, and it’s a big one, is its second unit. Darren Collison can turn it on, as can Leandro Barbosa, and Tyler Hansbrough and Lou Amundson provide that hustle factor that is absent from Miami’s roster, outside of Wade, James and at times Haslem. Unfortunately the Pacers’ reserves have battled inconsistency of their own, and will struggle to match Miami point-for-point when dealing with starters for extended periods, but the hope is the Pacers can wear down the heat with their depth, and that looks like an inevitability.

Advantage: Pacers

Coaching

 Erik Spoelstra and Frank Vogel are both young, inexperienced coaches who, at times, defer to their players and assistants, letting games dictate themselves. Vogel is clearly the more accomplished coach, achieving relatively more (against expectations) with much less. But both coaches have their faults and will take their lumps this series. Vogel proved that he is a solid coach by out-dueling Stan Van Gundy last series. We’ll see if he can keep up the good work, and keep his team motivated in the face of a daunting task.

Advantage: Pacers

Apr 28, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra and point guard Mario Chalmers (right) during the first half of game one in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the New York Knicks of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at the American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Series Prediction: Miami in 6

In seven categories the Heat take two (SG and SF), the Pacers take four (PG, PF, bench and coaching) and the teams are even one (C). Unfortunately, Miami’s advantages with Wade and James count for so much that it will be nearly impossible for any team, Indiana included, to hang with the Heat in a 7-game series. Miami is precipitously built around two truly dominant players; losing one would put them on level footing with the league’s most ordinary teams, and losing both would put their ability to win games at all in question. But the fact is that both Wade and James are playing and presumably will be playing well.

On the flip side, while Miami beat Indiana in 3 of 4 meetings this year, the Pacers were dominant in the last game, beating Miami by 15 at home, and lost by just two in overtime the game before that. The Pacers have grown and evolved as a team, even since then, and have become a much tougher out. They match up as well with the Heat as anyone does, they’re deeper than Miami, and maybe most importantly they rebound better. The Pacers lead the Eastern Conference in rebounding these playoffs at 46.8 rebounds per game, and outrebounded the Magic by 8.4 rebounds per game. Meanwhile the Heat have remained an average rebounding team these playoffs, grabbing 40.4 rebounds per game vs. New York and getting outrebounded (by a very depleted team, it’s worth adding) by 1.8 boards per game. So there is that.

In the end, if Miami’s talent doesn’t eventually get Indiana, it’s universal homecourt advantage (that will unfortunately travel to the Circle City) and star treatment from the refs certainly will. The Pacers are better than most of the non-basketball watching public thinks, and will give the Heat a tough series. But losing in 6 is nothing to be upset about for the overachieving Pacers, and that’s a realistic expectation at this point.

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