Miami wins series 4-2 (Game 1 of 6)

Miami wins series 4-2

Game 1: Sunday, May 18th
Game 2: Tuesday, May 20th
Game 3: Saturday, May 24th
Game 4: Monday, May 26th
Game 5: Wednesday, May 28th
Game 6: Friday, May 30th

Heat 96

(54-28, 22-19 away)

Pacers 107

(56-26, 35-6 home)

    Coverage: ABC

    3:30 PM ET, May 18, 2014

    Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN

    1 2 3 4 T
    MIA 24 21 25 2696
    IND 30 25 28 24107

    Top Performers

    Mia: L. James 25 Pts, 10 Reb, 5 Ast, 3 Stl

    Ind: P. George 24 Pts, 4 Reb, 7 Ast, 1 Stl

    Heat-Pacers Preview

    INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Indiana and Miami spent a whole season hearing about the rematch.

    On Sunday, the two Eastern Conference heavyweights will meet in the most intriguing fight of the year.

    There is the possibility of a head-to-head matchup between the world's best player, LeBron James, and the NBA's next young superstar, Paul George. There are battle lines drawn between Miami's perimeter shooters and Indiana's tough inside guys. There is history with Miami eliminating Indiana each of the past two seasons despite the Pacers pushing the Heat further than anyone expected both times, and, of course, everyone wants to see if the young challengers will derail Miami's quest for a third straight NBA championship.

    It's no wonder this is the most anticipated matchup of the playoffs.

    "Two best teams in the Eastern Conference. It's that simple," James said. "I mean both teams defend at a high level, both teams share the ball, both teams get into the paint, both teams have a desire to win, so that's why it's been equal."

    It's taken three years to reach this point.

    In the second round in 2012, the Pacers took a 2-1 lead only to see Miami rebound with three straight wins before winning the first title with James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

    Last year, Indiana surprised everyone by pushing the Heat to the brink before faltering in a Game 7 loss as the Heat won a second straight crown.

    This season, the Pacers made it clear from the start they wanted the No. 1 seed to assure Miami had to play in Indy if there was a Game 7. That long slog didn't end until the third-to-last night of the regular season, and it's the reason they'll play Game 1 of this best-of-seven series at home.

    Still, most observers consider Miami the favorite and with good reason. The Heat swept Charlotte in the first round and beat Brooklyn 4-1 in the second.

    Indiana, meanwhile, has been tested. It had to win the last two games to beat Atlanta 4-3 in the first round, beat Washington 4-2 after failing to clinch the series at home and had to block out all the outside distractions emanating from their second-half swoon. And for a change, the Pacers don't seem to mind what's being said.

    "I think we like being the underdogs," Lance Stephenson said. "We like when everybody is talking about us. I think it makes our game a little bit better. It makes us want to go out and play harder, so I like being the underdog and everybody talking about us and trying to bring us down but we stay together as a unit, stay poised in the locker room. It just makes us stronger."


    Here are five more things to watch in this series:

    BIG ROY: Nobody has been more inconsistent in these playoffs than Roy Hibbert, and yet nobody may be more crucial than Hibbert in this series. A year ago, the All-Star center caused so many problems that Miami signed injury-prone Greg Oden. After an abysmal start to the playoffs, Hibbert regained his footing against Washington. But if the Pacers are going to win this series, they need Hibbert to play well every night.

    SMALL BALL: Hawks guard Jeff Teague thought his team provided the blueprint to beating Indiana. Atlanta stretched Indiana's defense by using five 3-point shooters, and when the Wizards copied the approach and knocked down shots, that, too, gave Indiana trouble. Will Miami go small this time? Perhaps, and it may be one way to make Hibbert less of a factor, too.

    HOLDING AT HOME: Indiana finished the regular season with the best home record in the league (35-6). It hasn't helped the Pacers at all in the playoffs. Indiana is 3-4 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, giving away home-court advantage Game 1 losses in each of the first two series. Indiana knows it can't do that this time. "We can't allow ourselves to come out flat," George said. "Whatever it is, we've got to find it and come out with energy- treat this one like it's Game 7."

    WADING THROUGH: Miami played it safe with Wade all season, giving his problematic knees extra rest so he could excel in the playoffs. So far, that decision has paid dividends. He has played in all nine games, averaged 17.9 points and 4.0 assists while shooting 50 percent from the field. If Wade continues playing this way, it could spell trouble for Indiana. But this may be his biggest challenge.

    DE-FENSE: There is a lot of star power in this series, but ultimately, it will come down to defense. Indiana had one of the league's stingiest defenses all season. Not surprisingly, the Pacers have won in the postseason, too, when they've been solid defensively. Miami might not have the defensive reputation of the Pacers, but they've played well enough to win eight of nine playoff games -- and good enough to have beaten the Pacers in their last two playoff series.


    Research Notes

    This is only the 3rd Conference Finals rematch over the last 20 years. In the previous two instances, the winner of the first meeting went on to lose the rematch. The last team to win consecutive Conference Finals against the same opponent were the Pistons in 1989-90 (defeated Bulls).
    How important is home-court advantage in the Pacers/Heat series? Over the last 2 seasons and including the playoffs, Miami is 6-1 at home against the Pacers compared to just 1-6 on the road.
    The Pacers are just 3-4 at home this postseason after going an NBA-best 35-6 in the regular season.
    Roy Hibbert averaged 22.5 points in Indiana's two wins over Miami this season compared to just 5.5 points in their two losses. Hibbert put up 22.1 points and 10.4 rebounds in the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals against the Heat.
    The Heat and Pacers have split 14 head-to-head meetings over the last 2 seasons and including the playoffs. Isolating it to just this past regular season, the teams split 4 meetings.
    LeBron James is averaging 30.0 points this postseason while shooting a career-high 56.4 percent from the field (entered this postseason shooting 47.2 percent from the field in his playoff career). Player efficiency rating is a rating of a player's per-minute productivity and is pace adjusted. Data for the statistic goes back to 1951-52. Through 9 games, LeBron James has posted a player efficiency rating of 32.9, a mark that would be the 3rd-highest all-time in a single postseason among players that logged at least 300 minutes. James holds the all-time mark of 37.4 set back in 2009 and George Mikan sits in second on that list with a PER of 33.6 in 1954. Michael Jordan's highest PER in a single postseason was 32.0 back in 1991 when he captured his first title. Kevin Durant, this season's MVP, has posted a PER of 23.5 this postseason.
    The Pacers outscored the Heat by 19 points with Roy Hibbert on the court Sunday. The Heat's average shot distance was almost 7-feet farther when Hibbert was on the court.
    The Heat have now lost Game 1 five times in the Big 3 Era. Miami won each of the previous four series, three of which came in just five games.
    The Pacers offense exploded for 107 points, their most in the last 2 seasons against Miami . According to elias, it was the first time in Pacers postseason history that each of their starters scored 15 points. The unit outscored Miami by 14 when they were on the court together, and assisted on 17 of their 23 made field goals.
    The Pacers went 13-for-17 from the free-throw line in the 3rd quarter alone in Game 1 vs the Heat, 2 more attempts than the Heat all game (15). There has also been 16 instances this postseason in which a team didn't record 17 free throw attempts in an entire game.
    The Heat have won 2 games this season when trailing by 10+ points at the was vs Indiana when they trailed by 11 at the half in December... Heat are 2-5 this season when trailing by double-digits at the half...
    The combination of good Pacers ball movement and Heat defensive breakdowns led to the Pacers exceeding their averages with their pick-and-roll offense in Game 1.
    The Pacers' +22 advantage in free throw attempts is the 2nd-largest they have ever had in a playoff game. They converted and attempted more free throws in the third quarter than the Heat had in the entire game.
    This was the Pacers' highest offensive efficiency, free throw rate and effective field goal percentage and their second-highest effective field goal percentage in this playoffs.
    The Pacers are 3-4 at home this postseason. ACCORDING TO ELIAS, they are the first No. 1 seed to enter the Conference Finals with a postseason home record below .500.
    Chris Bosh has not played well against the Pacers the last 2 seasons, relative to how he has fared against the rest of the league.
    The Pacers shot almost 16 percentage points better than the Heat on jump shots Sunday, including 52.6% on catch-and-shoots and all of their 3-pointers.

    ESPN Stats & Information