Insider offers a breakdown of every playoff series using an expert combination of scouting from Amin Elhassan and advanced metrics from Bradford Doolittle to answer three crucial questions. Also included are predictions from the writers and the classic Log5 formula for determining matchup probabilities.
All season, the narrative in the East has been about finding the team that would emerge as the biggest obstacle to the Miami Heat's march toward another conference title. All things considered, the Indiana Pacers are the best team to mount that challenge in 2012-13.
Indiana beat Miami two out of three times during the regular season, including the last game the Heat lost before embarking on their historic 27-game winning streak. The Pacers are the league's top defensive team and have the size and strength to cause problems for the undersized Heat. However, the odds still are long for the Pacers.
Beginning with the epic streak, Miami is 45-3 dating back to that loss in Indianapolis on the first day of February. During nine playoff games, Miami has outscored its opponents by 16.3 points per 100 possessions while winning eight times and has been the postseason's most efficient team at both ends of the floor.
Indiana's efficiency margin, by contrast, is 2.3 points per 100 possessions. Yet there is one team in the series with two players ranking in the top 10 in postseason WARP, and it's not Miami: Paul George (No. 5) and Roy Hibbert (No. 7) have emerged as a dynamic inside-outside duo for the Pacers. Is that enough to beat four-time MVP LeBron James and the mighty Heat?
Indiana Pacers at Miami Heat
Eastern Conference playoffs