The Indiana Pacers had the No. 1 defense in the NBA this season and just shut down Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks over six games. The Miami Heat had the league's No. 1 offense and just dispatched Tom Thibodeau's D in five. The trump card in the Eastern Conference finals, tipping off Wednesday (8:30 p.m. ET, TNT) in Miami, may be the four-time MVP. The Pacers are better suited to deal with the Heat than they were last season, when they lost a 2-1 conference semifinals lead to the eventual champs, who were playing without Chris Bosh. They've made tremendous strides defensively, have the personnel to take advantage of the Heat's lack of size in the frontcourt, and outrebounded Miami 122-89 in winning the season series 2-1. Furthermore, the Pacers have a third-year, 23-year-old, budding star who's more prepared to take on the challenge of defending the world's best player for 40 minutes a night. Paul George is as tough of a two-way matchup that LeBron James is going to face in the Eastern Conference. But James and the Heat have been virtually unbeatable over the last three and a half months. They've won 45 of their last 48 games, including one in which they shot 56 percent against the Pacers' No. 1 defense in early March. James is a huge step up from Anthony. He's got a better supporting cast, and the Heat have been pretty darn good defensively themselves over that stretch. The Pacers have the right recipe to beat the Heat, but Miami still has the better ingredients. The champs will be challenged in this series, but the chances that they'll lose more games in the next two weeks than they've lost in the last 15 seem pretty slim.
Pacers will try to leverage size advantage over dominant Heat
NBA.com | May 20