SMALL FORWARD | EDGE: HEAT
Heat: LeBron James’ scoring numbers were modest by his standards against the Pacers this season (21 per game), but he averaged 30 points and 10.8 rebounds against them in last year’s playoffs. His playoff statistics, historically, have been at their best in the conference finals (31 points, 9.2 rebounds, 6.6 assists). Paul George, a skilled defender, can offer some resistance, but nobody stops LeBron.
Pacers: George, named the NBA’s Most Improved Player, has become a force on both ends of the court. He’s averaging 19.1 points and 8.3 rebounds this postseason, but isn’t a high-percentage shooter: 40.4 in these playoffs, and just 19 for 70 on three-pointers. He scored 29 in one game against the Heat this season but was awful (2-for-11 shooting, five turnovers) in the most recent meeting.
POWER FORWARD | EDGE: PACERS
Heat: Udonis Haslem’s rebounding numbers are down from his career norm in postseason (he ranks 60th at 10.6 per 48 minutes), but he shot efficiently (26 for 41) and his defense and physicality will be essential against David West. Expect considerable power forward minutes for Shane Battier, who can draw West from the basket as he did in last year’s playoffs.
Pacers: West was very good against the Heat during the regular season (22.7 points, 7.7 rebounds, 65.8 percent shooting) and has assumed more of an offensive load with Danny Granger missing nearly all of the season. But he wasn’t quite as productive in last year’s playoffs against Miami (14.8 points, 7.6 rebounds) after Battier started luring him from the basket.
CENTER | EDGE: HEAT
Heat: Chris Bosh has improved his rebounding (8.3) and shot-blocking (18 in postseason), and he must be at his best defensively against Roy Hibbert, who has thrived in this postseason (14.0, 9.6). Like Battier with West, Bosh will try to pull Hibbert from the basket when the Heat has the ball. Bosh, 7 for 15 on three-pointers in postseason, played only 16 minutes in last year’s Pacers series due to his abdominal injury in Game 1.
Pacers: Hibbert shot just 38 percent against Miami this season but had 14 rebounds in one of the games and averaged 11.5 boards against the Heat in last year’s playoffs. The Pacers outscored the Heat when Hibbert was on the floor during their series last May. But he needs to avoid foul trouble — something that hampered him in the past but has been less of an issue now.
POINT GUARD | EDGE: EVEN
Heat: Thanks to Norris Cole’s emergence, the Heat is comfortable playing a point guard virtually all the time. Cole has been the better shooter than Chalmers in postseason (60.4 percent from the field to Chalmers’ 41.8), and Cole is the better on-the-ball defender. But Chalmers has played the better floor game (37 assists, 13 turnovers), compared with Cole’s 16 and 12. And Chalmers shot 7 for 11 on three-pointers vs. Indiana this year.
Pacers: George Hill has enjoyed a solid postseason (15.6 points per game) but stumbled in three games against the Heat this season (6.3 points, 33 percent shooting, nine assists, six turnovers). His assist-to-turnover ratio (20 to 16) was dismal against the Heat in their series last May. Hill’s backup, D.J. Augustin, isn’t as complete a player as last year’s Pacers backup, Darren Collison, who was dealt to Dallas.