Ahead of Wednesday's matchup, will LeBron run into a better front line in the East? Time for a debate.
The Heat had some time to thaw after the Atlanta Hawks handed them their first loss of the season. Now it's time to get back on track, but it won't be easy against the improved roster of the Indiana Pacers. With David West and George Hill in tow, the Pacers have shot out to a 4-1 record in the early going and look to build on their momentum against the Heat.
Were the Heat glad not to see the Pacers in the first-round last season? Now that the Pacers have added West to their front line, do they rival the Chicago Bulls underneath? Will the Pacers bust out the zone defense on Wednesday night like the Hawks did on Monday?
In another installment of Heat Index's 3-on-3 series, our writers give their takes on the Heat's big game against the powerful Pacers.
1. Fact or Fiction: Miami was lucky to avoid Indiana in the playoffs.
Tom Haberstroh: Fact. I'm not saying the Heat would have been knocked out by the Pacers, but they certainly would have given LeBron James and Dwyane Wade a tougher test than the higher-seeded 76ers did. Actually, the Pacers outscored the Heat last season in their three matchups so a seven-game was probably in order.
Michael Wallace: Fiction. The Pacers weren't good enough to win a playoff series against the Heat last year. Adding David West as a legit go-to player makes them a bigger threat this year, but they're still the ultimate "potential" team. And you know what they say about potential. It means you haven't proven much of anything just yet.
Brian Windhorst: Fiction. By that time last season the Heat were playing their best basketball. Despite having limited experience on their roster, the Pacers did push the Bulls a bit in the first round. Perhaps they would've been a little more demanding than the 76ers but it would not have mattered. Miami had few problems running through the East last year.
2. Fact or Fiction: The Pacers boast the East's best front line.
Haberstroh: Fiction. Although if David West can recreate the pick-and-roll magic he had with Chris Paul, I'm not sure the Pacers are far behind the Bulls or the Knicks. Hibbert is finally showing he can rebound like a 7-foot-2 big man so if the Bulls and Knicks have set the bar, it might need to go a little higher just to be safe.
Wallace: Fiction. Danny Granger, David West and Roy Hibbert represent a very solid frontcourt. On paper, they appear to complement one another in a very productive fashion. But for now, I have that frontline behind the one in New York. Chicago's is in the mix, too. And you could even argue that Miami could concede the center spot and still be more formidable with LeBron and Chris Bosh.
Windhorst: Fiction. The trio of David West, Roy Hibbert and an improving Tyler Handsbrough has gotten off to a great start. Even recent addition Louis Admundson adds to the rotation. But the Bulls still have the most talented frontcourt because of Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer plus their talented backups.
3. Fact or Fiction: We will see the Pacers go zone against the Heat.
Haberstroh: Fact. Frank Vogel might not have much history running the zone defense, but neither did Doc Rivers. And Boston had a much bigger reputation to uphold. I imagine the Pacers will look to throw off the Heat and test their progress against the zone. If the Heat get flummoxed right off the bat like they did against the Hawks, I don't think it's making just a cameo.
Wallace: Fact. The Pacers are as committed to straight-up man defense as any team in the league. But with all of the publicity and hysteria regarding the Heat's struggles against the zone, it'll be hard for Coach Frank Vogel to resist the urge, at least for a possession or two.
Windhorst: Fiction. Perhaps a possession or two in each half just as a disruption tactic. But it's doubtful they will play it 20-25 possessions like the Celtics and Hawks did. Pacers coach Frank Vogel isn't a fan of zone defense and probably wouldn't make it part of his game plan unless he gets in a big hole.