2020 NBA Playoffs preview: Heat vs Pacers

The NBA Playoffs roll on with the first of two four versus five-seeded matchups, this one being in the Eastern Conference. The Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers square off for the first time in the postseason since 2014. The two teams were very different then as they faced off in the Eastern Conference Finals for the second year in a row. The Heat, led by Lebron James and “The Big Three” defeated the Pacers, led by Paul George, both times.

They meet in the 2020 NBA Playoffs as evenly matched teams with promise for a potential run to the Eastern Conference Finals. The Heat enter the playoffs with a very deep and young roster. The Heat have eight players who averaged double-digit points per game (PPG) in the regular season. Two of these players included rookies Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn, the fourth and fifth-leading scorers on the team. Sharpshooter Duncan Robinson is a lethal weapon as on catch-and-shoot three-pointers, he has the highest percentage since the 2013-14 season when they began tracking the stat. The list includes the “Splash Bros” of Golden State.

Forward Bam Adebayo is the glue for this team as he averages 15.9 PPG and 10.2 rebounds per game (RPG). The Heat’s leader is forward Jimmy Butler, a player they acquired last offseason in a sign-and-trade with the Philadelphia 76ers. His defensive presence along with leading the team with 19.9 PPG makes the Heat a formidable squad. The Heat went 3-5 in the bubble but beat good teams like the Denver Nuggets, Boston Celtics and the Pacers.

The Pacers last year failed to overcome a significant injury in the playoffs. All-star guard Victor Oladipo broke his leg on Jan. 23, 2019 and was out for about a year. The Pacers were promptly swept by the Celtics in the first round. This year, the Pacers must overcome another injury as forward Domantas Sabonis, who was averaging 18.5 PPG and 12.4 RPG, is currently out with a foot injury.

The Pacers have a formidable weapon with TJ Warren at the forward. He has been dynamite at the bubble, scoring over 30 points four times, including a 53-point outing over the 76ers in the first game. The Pacers still have six other players who average double-digit PPG including Oladipo, who returned from his injury. Malcolm Brogdon and Jeremy Lamb are good all-around guards with scoring-ability and tenacious defending.

The two teams met twice during the bubble with the final game seeing both teams rest their starters. In the main game, the Heat held TJ Warren to 5-14 shooting and the Heat won 114-92. The Heat are the NBA’s second-ranked team in three-point field goal percentage (3PT%) and can heat up quickly. However, the Pacers are a more physical team and their defense and depth will be enough to outlast Miami in the closest first-round series.

Prediction: Pacers in 7

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