Now that the Miami Heat have completed the “gentlemen’s” sweep over the Brooklyn Nets in the second round of the NBA Playoffs, it is time to focus on their next task at hand: the Eastern Conference Finals. The Indiana Pacers and Washington Wizards are currently in a tight second round series, where the Pacers have the 3-2 lead. Although the Pacers have been touted all season as the “best” team in the East, the Heat would much rather face the Pacers in the Conference Finals than a young, upstart team like the Wizards.
The Heat split the regular season series with both the Wizards and the Pacers, but the final scores of each respective game could be telling of how a potential series could go against either opponent. The Pacers beat the Heat this season by an average margin of 3.5 points. The Wizards, on the other hand, beat the Heat by an average margin of 19 points. That is a huge scoring differential between both teams.
Against the Pacers, the Heat’s scoring differential in both wins was just 2.5 points. Against the Wizards, it was just 9.5 points in both wins. Against the Pacers, in both win (2.5) and loss (3.5) differentials, the margins were extremely slim (very similar to the Heat and Nets regular season series this year). Against the Wizards, however, the Heat’s 9.5-point differential compared to the Wiz’s 19-point differential is a big difference, one that could make a series against this young team extremely tough.
The Pacers have one of the best team defenses in the league, but the Wizards aren’t exactly weak on the defensive end either, finishing the regular season as the ninth-best defensive team in the league, holding their opponents to just 99.4 points per game. The Wizards also have arguably one the best young shooters in the game in Bradley Beal, the quickest point guard in the league in John Wall and one of the best frontcourts in the Eastern Conference with Nene and Marcin Gortat. All of these players could give the Heat matchup issues, and that is just from a statistical standpoint.
The Heat have a few days of rest before the Eastern Finals begin, but a few of those will be spent meticulously creating game-plans for a playoff series against either the Pacers or the Wizards. The Heat will be ready either way, but they would much rather face an offensively incompetent team like the Pacers. The Wizards are young, fast and are gaining the playoff experience they need to become a true threat in the Eastern Conference. Because of this, the Heat will be rooting for Indiana tonight.