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The Miami Heat take on the Indiana Pacers on Sunday for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, and if you ask me, the Heat will be victorious, 4-1. Why exactly is this my prediction? Well, here are three reasons…
1. LeBron James. This first one yields no explanation as he is currently the best player in the league, but just to humor you all, I will take my thoughts a little further. For starters, his hunger to win never waivers, regardless of who his opponent is and what kind of game is being played, but especially when something as important as a championship (and the opportunity to three-peat) is on the line; and has without a doubt transferred this motivation onto his teammates. Offensively he is a beast: James has scored at least 45 points on seven different occasions during the playoffs. Defensively he is unstoppable (check out the chart below to see how James fared against the Pacers during regular season play). And simply knowing that “The King” himself is on the court during a matchup is enough to cause a player to second-guess himself. Obviously one player cannot win a game, let alone a series, by himself, but having such a leader on your side certainly does not hurt.
2. The Heat are rested. Now clearly I write this with a grain of salt, as how rested can a championship contending team be? But Miami has played the least number of games out of all the teams left in the playoffs. They swept the Charlotte Bobcats in four and took the Brooklyn Nets in five, as opposed to the Pacers who won 4-3 in the first round against the Atlanta Hawks and then beat the Washington Wizards in five. Not only does this mean the Heat will have plenty of confidence going into this series but they will have had enough time to revive themselves mentally and physically, a luxury that should never be taken for granted. James and friends have been basically breezing through this postseason while Indiana has been fighting for their lives. I predict this will make a huge difference not even just when Sunday afternoon comes around, but especially as the series progresses.
3. Consistency. Although the Heat may not have won every game so far in these playoffs, they have been consistently playing good basketball. For example, had the Nets not had such a tremendous fortune in terms of the number of three-pointers that fell (15-of-25 to be exact), it may very well have been another loss for them. On the other hand, the Pacers have been inconsistent to say the least, playing smart one day and falling apart the next. Their first round meeting with the Hawks, an eighth-seeded team, proved to be tumultuous, leading to a seven game series; something which for a team that many people had winning it all at the start of the postseason, is quite embarrassing. Another shameful moment for them was Game 5 against the Wizards, resulting in a 102-79 blowout. To be honest, their entire season has been quite a roller coaster. So while there may be something to be said about flashes of stellar basketball, nothing compares to reliability, something the Pacers definitely cannot be currently defined as.
And as a bonus fourth reason (and I stress that this is not yet confirmed), drama rarely tends to end well for anyone involved.