Miami Heat will be taking on the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2013 NBA Playoffs on Wednesday. Having gone through two very different opponents to get to this point, the Heat will find a new challenge in the Pacers.
Indiana has gotten better since last year, and a lot of it can be attributed not only to their excellent defense, but also to the fact that they play as a cohesive unit on offense. The new challenge that the Heat will face in defending the Pacers is the fact that Indiana has multiple ways to hurt the champions.
Milwaukee Bucks were relatively easy to shut down, as the vast majority of the team’s offense runs through Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings. The Heat keyed in on the two trigger-happy guards and the Bucks simply had no answer. Chicago Bulls were already depleted going into the second-round matchup against Miami, but still managed to find some explosive offense in Nate Robinson. Eventually, the Heat made sure every shot Robinson took was a bad look and had no other problems in shutting down Chicago’s offense.
The Pacers, on the other hand, have multiple threats in their starting lineup. Paul George has become a more complete player and can hurt a defense in a lot of different ways. He is the team’s most versatile player and is great playing off the ball. While Roy Hibbert has struggled offensively for a good portion of the regular season, he has picked up his scoring in the playoffs and could be a handful to deal with down low. David West is another player that could give Miami some problems, as he has a decent face-up game and can power his way down in the low block.
George Hill and Lance Stephenson might not be the biggest offensive threats, but still have to be recognized by Miami’s defense. Hill rarely forces anything, but he can get hot and score 20 or more points with ease. Stephenson never really gets anything called for him, but he has the potential to explode, just like he did the the last game of the Pacers’ series against the New York Knicks.
Because of this, the Heat will need to continue playing great team defense, as shutting down one or two guys might not be enough to stop the Pacers.
Vytis is a Miami Heat and NBA columnist for RantSports. You can follow him on Twitter here: @VytisLasaitis