NBA Playoffs 2013: 5 Things We’ve Learned From Heat vs. Pacers


When the Miami Heat vs. Indiana Pacers Eastern Conference Finals matchup was set, widespread belief was the series would be a tightly contested, physical matchup between two talented teams. Through three games, that has certainly been the case.

Heat forward LeBron James stole the show in Game 1 with his buzzer-beating layup to give the Heat a 1-0 advantage in the series. In Game 2, the Pacers rebounded behind a total team effort to fend off a late push by the Heat and win 97-93. The series shifted to Indiana for Game 3, where the depth of the Heat proved to be too much for the Pacers as Miami cruised to a 114-96 win to take a 2-1 series lead.

The series has been full of big plays and stellar performances by James and Pacers forward Paul George.

Here are five things we’ve learned from the Heat vs. Pacers series so far:

5. Depth is the key to success for Miami

When the Heat won the title last season, the team’s impressive depth proved to be a key reason. So far in this year’s playoffs, particularly in the Indiana series, the depth has proved to be a key factor yet again. Behind James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, prime performances by role players such as Udonis Haslem and Chris Andersen have led to Heat victories. In Game 1, Andersen made all seven field-goal attempts en route to a 16-point performance in Miami’s win. In Game 3 on Sunday night, Haslem was one of Miami’s most effective scorers, netting 17 points in just 23 minutes of play.

4. Norris Cole should replace Mario Chalmers as Miami’s starting point guard

If there’s one thing the Heat could do to ensure a series win and a third straight NBA Finals berth, it could be making a switch in the starting rotation. Chalmers has been the starting point guard all season, but his struggles combined with the emergence of Cole have led to justified pleas for Cole to assume to starting role. Through three games, Cole’s play off the bench has ignited the Heat offense. He’s averaging just 3.3 points per game, but he provides an added spark to the lineup that doesn’t seem to be there when Chalmers is on the court. Chalmers is dealing with a shoulder injury, which could be part of the reason for his struggles. Possibly a reduced role as he continues to heal could help Chalmers.

George has emerged as a young star. (Photo: Mark Runyon, Basketball Schedule)

3. Paul George is emerging as a star (if he hasn’t already)

One of the pleasant surprises of the 2012-13 regular season was the emergence of Indiana guard/forward Paul George. The swingman developed into the Pacers’ go-to scorer offensively and in the Miami series, he has proven to be a threat to single-handedly keep Indiana in tightly contested matchups. His deep 3-pointer in Game 1 helped send the game to overtime and in the extra period, he made three clutch free throws in the final seconds that gave the Pacers the lead; however, they were unable to hang on. He struggled in Game 3, scoring just 13 points, but his success in the first two games helped put him on the map.

2. A dominant low post is the key to beating the Heat

One of the Heat’s kryptonites in the James/Wade/Bosh era has been the lack of a dominant low post on both ends of the court. The lack of depth behind Bosh has allowed opposing teams with talented power forwards and centers to take over games against the Heat. So far in the series, Indiana center Roy Hibbert and power forward David West have experienced consistent success. Hibbert is averaging 22.7 points per game and has been an enforcer defensively, while West’s physical play has helped slow down Miami’s offense.

1. The Pacers can’t beat the Heat without double-teaming LeBron James

Through three games, James is averaging 29.3 points per game and Indiana has struggled to find a way to stop him. The main reason for Indiana’s struggles is because the Pacers’ game plan has not been centered around stopping James. Instead, George has been isolated on James for the majority of the series and he has struggled mightily. He is much smaller and less physical than James and without any help guarding him, George has shown no signs of shutting James down on the offensive end.