These two teams have faced each other in the playoffs each of the last two seasons and have been extremely fierce both years. In 2012, the Miami Heat knocked the Pacers out in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs by defeating them in six games. Last season, the Pacers forced a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference finals, but came up just short to Miami.
The Pacers went into the offseason focusing on the weaknesses that led to them losing the series to the Heat. They improved their bench by signing C.J. Watson and Chris Copeland, and acquired Luis Scola in a trade from the Phoenix Suns. Those three moves have all looked to be very solid so far this season and could be what it takes to finally take the leap ahead of the Heat in the Eastern Conference.
Obviously, LeBron James makes this debate a very interesting one, but the Pacers have their own superstar in Paul George. These two players are a great matchup and will both put up numbers for their respective teams as everyone saw in the 2013 NBA playoffs. James took advantage of George's lack of experience and was able to make plays on him last year in clutch situations, but with another year of experience and an offseason of hard work, Paul George is ready to step up to the plate this season.
Both teams have great depth, but the edge has to go to the Indiana Pacers. The main bench players for the Miami Heat are Ray Allen, Michael Beasley, Chris Andersen, Norris Cole, and Rashard Lewis. Obviously, those guys aren't bad players, but they certainly aren't as young or good as they once were.
Indiana, on the other hand, has C.J. Watson, Luis Scola, Ian Mahinmi, Chris Copeland, and Orlando Johnson off the bench. One thing to keep in mind is that the Pacers will have Danny Granger returning in the near future. Add him to that bench, and the Pacers have an extremely potent second unit.
Dwyane Wade has been dealing with injury problems the last few years, and this season doesn't appear to be any different. The Heat simply aren't the same without Wade when going up against premier competition like the Indiana Pacers. If the Heat are going to three-peat this season, they are going to need a healthy Wade to get past Indiana.
The Pacers have put together a team that is much better on paper than the Miami Heat. Indiana still has a major advantage in the paint with both David West and Roy Hibbert. Miami tried to make a move to help itself this offseason by signing Greg Oden, but with Oden's health issues he simply cannot be relied upon. Paul George has taken the next step and is officially an NBA superstar and an MVP candidate. The growth of Lance Stephenson is another reason that the Pacers are currently better than the Miami Heat.
All that being said, the question comes down to whether or not the Pacers are better than the Heat. The answer to that question is yes, the Indiana Pacers are a better basketball team. However, Miami still has the best player in basketball, LeBron James, and games between these two teams could go either way simply because of how good James is.
The Eastern Conference is as weak as it has ever been, so it is expected that these two teams will be the top two in the conference once again. It is very possible that the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat will face each other once again in the Eastern Conference Finals for a rematch of last season.
Indiana has taken the steps that it needed to take in order to become a better team than the Heat on paper, but the Pacers are going to have to prove it on the floor to prove it.
Evan Massey lives in Indianapolis and has followed the Indiana Pacers for the past 16 years. He has written for many sports websites including ProSportsExtra.com, Hoops-Nation.com, ProFootballSpot.com, and NaptownsFinest.com. Follow Evan on Twitter at @massey_evan.
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