First, I thought I'd give Pacer Nation an update on the Undebeatables' playoff predictions. Per the Good Doctor in Episode 59, the boys are competing with their picks. One point is awarded for picking the series winner correctly and an additional point is awarded for picking that series winner in the right amount of games. (24 possible points.)
Through the first two rounds, these are the results:
I only mention this because I'm in the lead and I feel it's important for Pacer Nation to have all the facts before they use our predictions for legal gambling purposes. Without further ado...
Eastern Conference Finals
#1 Indiana Pacers vs #2 Miami Heat
Key Matchup: I wrote a ridiculously long preview of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Heat last year. Almost everything remains true. The rosters are largely the same. And I am of the mind that the Pacers are where they hoped to be all season and all the lack of the focus will fade away in this upcoming series. Even with a determined effort, beating the heat will be no easy task. I'm going to say the Key Matchup here is the bench vs themselves. The bench has been inconsistent to say the least, with the exception of perhaps Ian Mahimni. Cj, Luis, and Evan have all had moments, but flashes of good play won't be enough against the Heat. Yes, the Pacers will rely heavily on the starters, but as revealed in game 6 against the Wizards, heavy minutes on the starters can lead to offensive stagnation late in games. The bench mob may be fighting confidence and rhythm, as coach Vogel continues to shorten their minutes, but they must figure out how to contribute in whatever minutes they do see, and hopefully give Vogel reason to leave them in longer. If the Pacers want to get to the NBA Finals, they can't just go 5 deep in the rotation.
X-Factor: Roy Hibbert. As the Big Fella goes, so goes the Pacers. 55 built his name, and in many ways his All-Star status and max contract, on his dominance of Miami. Yes, he's been fragile, but it's his time to shine. Rip 'em up, Roy!
Prediction: This is what the team and the fans have been waiting for all season. The Pacers have played wildly inconsistent ball over the last two and a half month. But the Heat are like comfortable shoes, or a safety blanket. Indiana has played Miami 24 times over the last 3 years, more than any other opponent. The Pacers, who have at times lost their identity, know who they are against the Heat. I think the Blue and Gold are ready for the next step. Pacers in 7.
Western Conference Finals
#1 San Antonio Spurs vs #2 Oklahoma City Thunder
Key Matchup: Best Player vs Best Team. Kevin Durant, with a good deal of help from the physical specimen that is Russell Westbrook, can beat anybody. He is playing the league's best ball right now. Is that enough to get by the team playing the best ball right now? This is going to be fun.
X-Factor: Pace. The Thunder have the ability to run the Spurs off the floor. The Spurs are extremely well coached and play well together. Can they dictate the pace and keep this from becoming a track meet?
Prediction: Young Guns vs the Old Guard. Lots of star power. Two rabid fan bases. This should be an entertaining and tight series. But I don't think the Spurs will be surprised like they were two years ago (up 2-0 and lost the next 4.) They now what they're getting into and they won't have a let down on there way to a 6th Finals appearance in 15 years. Spurs in 7.