Czar’s Playoff Preview

EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS: PACERS VS. HEAT GAME 7

Copyright 2013 NBAE - Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty ImagesNothing beats the pressure-packed excitement of a Game 7. Tonight the Indiana Pacers will try to knock off the defending champion Miami Heat in the last chapter of the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals and transform this page turner of a series into one for the ages.

The surprisingly well-matched opponents have been alternating wins since Game 1. Top seed Miami finished with the best regular season record, 16½ games ahead of the Pacers. They were better than Indiana at just about everything, except rebounding and blocking.

But in the ECF the Heat have encountered a hungry team that’s not afraid of the reigning champs or league MVP LeBron James. The Pacers stepped into the ring with an apparent belief in their ability to beat the Heat at home, and they’ve been building confidence with each win since.

On Saturday the Pacers toppled King James & Co. in a decisive 91-77 Game 6 win. Now the Pacers can taste the franchise’s first-ever finals appearance.

Roy Hibbert and David West have been the difference for Indiana. Though many have identified Miami’s small size as a chink in their armor, few teams have been able to exploit this vulnerability. But Coach Vogel has decided to stick with his bigs when the Heat have gone small with LeBron or Battier at the 4 spot. Hibbert and West have successfully defended the paint and punished the Heat at the offensive end of the court.

The Heat’s perimeter game has evaporated of late, so they must come up with one of their better shooting performances tonight. And LeBron will need his struggling teammates to step up. Though banged up, the Heat’s home court advantage should give them a significant advantage as home teams are 16-2 in Game 7′s played in the conference finals or finals since 1984.

Will Miami return to the NBA finals for the third straight season, or will it be a long, hot summer of speculation about the Big 3’s future? Marv Albert, Steve Kerr , Reggie Miller and Craig Sager will bring you TNT’s final broadcast of the 2012-13 season when Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals tips off at 8:30 PM ET. Can’t wait!

Miami Heat v Indiana Pacers  - Game Six

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