It’s pretty clear to see that the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers are the two best teams in the Eastern Conference and the general consensus is that they will meet in the conference finals come May. But there’s still the issue of the top seed to figure out and at this point no one can really predict how that battle will turn out. Though there’s another question to answer, does either team really want the top seed?
As it stands, Miami currently owns the top spot having taken the lead for the first time all season having beaten Toronto 93-83. That means if the playoffs started today, they would face either the Chicago Bulls or the Brooklyn Nets in the second round, (assuming the whichever team that clinches the eighth seed doesn’t pull off a huge upset, of course) both of whom have troubled the South Florida giants this season.
Chicago has already shown they are capable of beating the defending champions this season, having done so twice this term. However, given the choice, the Heat would probably rather face Joakim Noah and Co. instead of Brooklyn because the Nets have won every single game against the Erik Spoelstra’s team in 2013-14, giving them four wins out of four when you include the preseason.
Miami does have the opportunity to at least add a consolation victory to that flattering record if they win their next clash on April 9, though that’s a big “if,” because the Heat haven’t exactly been playing great basketball as of late.
Through the month of March, they were in the bottom 10 in scoring (98.7 points per game), had the 15th-best 3-point percentage (35.5) and lost five of their six games at one point on their way to an unimpressive 10-8 record. Meanwhile Brooklyn is the hottest team in Eastern Conference (and fourth best in the NBA) with a 30-12 record since the New Year. Chicago happens to be second-best in the conference during that span with just two more losses.
Indiana, too, has had their hardships against Chicago, having dropped two games (four if you include the preseason games) against their Central Division rivals. Though unlike the Heat, they have made light work of the Nets, beating them in all four meetings this year.
However, the Pacers have been struggling as of late and will be glad to see the back of March having put together a losing record with eight wins and 10 losses. The month has included a couple torrid runs in which they lost four games in a row and another which has yielded only two wins in their last eight contests.
The defense is still dominant as ever but Paul George and the rest of the crew simply haven’t been able to muster any offense, having managed to reach the century mark only twice in March. In fact they have failed to even reach the 80-point mark in five of the last six games and not surprisingly, all have been losses.
Sure, with a 98.6 ppg average all season, they haven’t had the best of luck on that side of the ball, but March has been especially bad. They have ranked last in points (89.2), second to last in assists (17.9) and boast the second worst field goal percentage with 43.5 percent.
Nonetheless, you have to feel that this is just a phase for Indy and it will eventually pass and the race for top spot isn’t over just yet.
Miami on the other hand have to hope for the luck of the draw and avoid Brooklyn because they will no doubt push them to the limit if they so happen to meet. Plus, they proved last postseason that they can outlast a Derrick Rose-less Chicago Bulls team in a best-of-7 series, so who’s to say they can’t do it again?
Still, settling for second place wouldn’t be such a bad idea. After all, the prospect of facing Charlotte and Toronto or Washington is much more enticing than the alternative. Even though Indiana does have the best home record in the NBA.