Fresh from an interview with my friend Dennis Principe on his show Sports Chat (104.3 FM) where we talked about the Eastern Conference playoffs, it got me thinking—Which team in the East has a realistic chance of beating the Miami Heat?
Currently, the Miami Heat has a comfortable lead over the Charlotte Bobcats in the 1st round and for all intents and purposes, this series is over. The Heat will probably get a sweep. They will face the winner of the Brooklyn Nets/Toronto Raptors series.
Everyone wants to see the Heat go up against the Nets in the 2nd round and not just for the television ratings. After all, a Raptors/Heat series would be pretty boring since the latter have beaten the former easily and consistently over the past few seasons.
The Nets, meanwhile, shut out the 2-time defending champions during the regular season winning 4 games to none—the only team to do so. Of course, everything goes out the door once the playoffs start and this “dominance” of the Nets is clearly overstated. 3 of the 4 games were decided by one point with the other game going into overtime. At best, you can say that the teams are evenly matched.
And like everyone in the East, the Nets were reloaded with an eye on beating the Heat. The team traded away everything including the kitchen sink to get Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. These two veterans are way past their prime but they have something valuable, they have beaten LeBron James-led playoff teams many times. Additionally, the animosity between these players is intense which makes for an exciting series. This series will be a close one but the Heat will probably advance to the Conference Finals 4 games to 2.
Out in the other bracket, the 1st seed Indiana Pacers are heavily favored to come out on top and challenge the Heat. They are the only team with the talent to pull off an upset.
However, the Pacers have been a middling team in the 2nd half of the season and they have lost their edge. There are confirmed reports of “chemistry” issues that have led to embarrassing losses. There is the Roy Hibbert/Paul George spat, the George Hill/Lance Stephenson shouting match, and the Evan Turner/Stephenson shoving, among many others.
The Pacers arguably have the best starting unit in the East, and man for man, they match-up with the Heat pretty well. They are now down 2-1 versus the 8th seed Atlanta Hawks and look ready to implode. The team needs to win this series and get their mojo back. If they lose, there will be several changes including personnel who will likely be gone next season.
Bottom line, the Heat are the Eastern Conference champions.
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