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Pick Your Poison: Who Does Miami Really Want to Play?

After disposing of the Bulls this week, the Miami Heat is wondering who's next?

After disposing of the Bulls this week, the Miami Heat is wondering who’s next?

Having closed out a five-game series with the Chicago Bulls Wednesday, the Miami Heat patiently awaits the Eastern Conference finals.

Meanwhile, the New York Knicks and Indiana Pacers are locked in a struggle to decide who joins the Heat in the next round.

While the Heat players are figuratively sunning themselves with plenty of time to think, BettingSports decided it was time to establish just who we believe the Heat would rather be playing when action resumes.


When it comes to the NBA, matchups can prove vital. In many regards, the Heat probably doesn’t need to look at how it matches up as much as most other teams. After all, it’s LeBron James that is a matchup nightmare. But don’t believe for a second Eric Spoelstra isn’t looking for an edge out there on the hardwood.

Indiana poses somewhat of a conundrum. On paper, Miami doesn’t have the big men to contend with Roy Hibbert and David West which gives Indiana a noticeable advantage. However, the Heat can spread the floor and Hibbert and West will struggle to stop James driving to the hoop. You could argue that Miami will run away with a series against the Pacers using the fast break, but Indiana has done a very good job at putting the halters on the run-and-gun Heat this season.

New York is lacking in big men. Despite A’mare Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler taking to the court, New York doesn’t have a bona fide big to cause the Heat trouble on the defensive end. And like the Heat, the Knicks would prefer to get out on the break and shoot jumpers. Now, we already know that’s caused New York problems against the Pacers, thanks to some truly miserable shooting. Carmelo Anthony and Co. would need to be on form to take a shootout.

Verdict: New York – a team that seems one false move from a complete meltdown – has more perceivable weaknesses than the Pacers, which makes them the preferred choice. Of course, the Knicks have gotten hot this season and, as we’ve seen so often this postseason, one injury could derail any team’s title hopes.

Lacking an offensive-minded big man, the Knicks don't match up well against the Heat.

Lacking an offensive-minded big man and struggling to score, the Knicks don’t match up well against the Heat.

This Season

In terms of results this season, the Miami Heat might be forgiven for wishing there was a rewind button that would have allowed Atlanta or Boston to advance to the conference finals. The Heat had a winning record against both those sides this season. That’s more than can be said for the team Miami will face.

During the regular season, the Knicks took three of four games from Miami, including both games in South Florida. The average score during the head-to-head was 103-91 in favor of New York, who took all three wins by double digits.

Things weren’t much better against Indiana. The Pacers took the head-to-head series 2-1, with the average final score reading 93-90 in favor of Indiana. Miami won the only game played at American Airlines Arena.

Verdict: Based on these results, you can’t help but think Miami would feel better about facing the Pacers, a team it has played close and a team that hasn’t won in South Beach.

An Historical Perspective

According to Basketball Reference, Miami has historically struggled against both New York and Indiana.

Since joining the NBA as an expansion team in 1988, Miami is 43-58 (.426) against New York and 38-53 (.418) against Indiana.

It’s easy to point out that the Heat had some pretty dark days early on, but the Knicks and Pacers have had their struggles during that time too. In fact, New York has missed the postseason eight times since 1988, the same number of times as Miami. Indiana has missed the playoffs six times during that span.

Things look better for the Heat during the ‘Big 3’ era.

Since 2011, Miami is 10-6 (.625) against New York and 11-6 (.647) against Indiana, including playoff games.

Both of those trends would suggest that New York would be the preferred matchup for Miami, being that the Heat has better numbers historically and recently against the Knicks.

Verdict: There’s little to choose between in this category. The Heat has played well recently against both New York and Indiana, polishing a blemished historical record. Consider this a draw.

Playoff Past

Continuing the historical theme, Miami has playoff history with both New York and Indiana, although to varying degrees.


A rivalry boils over back in 1998.

The Heat-Knicks matchups of the late 90s have gone down in lore, and not just because of Jeff Van Gundy dangling from Alonzo Mourning’s leg. Heated, physical, and unmissable, between 1997 and 2000 the sides met each year for what always proved to be one of the best series of the playoffs.

Ultimately, Miami owns a 15-14 record (with a TKO of Van Gundy) against the Knicks in postseason play. However, New York holds a 3-2 edge in series won during that time. In fact, prior to last year’s 4-1 series win for Miami, the Knicks were 13-11 in the head-to-head. This might leave the Heat a little hesitant about taking on the Manhattan side this season.

Miami’s playoff history with Indiana is far less colorful. The two sides have met twice in the postseason, with Indiana taking a series in 2004 and Miami winning last year’s showdown. The winner of each of these semifinals series advanced to the Eastern Conference finals with a 4-2 edge. That’s as close to call as it gets.

Well, here’s one more thing to consider. Four of the five playoff series between Miami and New York went the distance. In 1997 and 2000, the two played out a seven-game semifinals series, while in 1998 and 1999 they went five games in the opening round.

There’s no way this season’s Miami Heat side will want to go the distance. With Dwyane Wade’s health uncertain, and with a potential bruising series against either the Memphis Grizzlies or San Antonio Spurs the reward for advancing, the Heat will want to get through this one as quick as possible.

Verdict: While history shouldn’t play a part in the postseason, we all know it can. All it will take in one little spark for the Knicks to move into fighting mode or, worse, to start believing they can beat the Heat. You have to believe a (relatively) low-key series with Indiana – much to the NBA’s chagrin – would be better for the Heat.

Miami's playoff history with Indiana is less colorful than with New York.

Miami’s playoff history with Indiana is less colorful than with New York.

Final Verdict

By a score of 2-1 (with one no decision), it appears that Miami ought to be rooting for Indiana to advance. So far so good in those respects.

Of course, this reasoning is fairly selective. Whilst the Pacers haven’t fared as well as the Knicks this season or historically speaking, they match up much better with Miami on the court, so where do you draw the line?

Regardless, Miami in all likelihood doesn’t really care who it plays come the Eastern Conference finals. The team is on a mission to win an NBA championship, whichever teams end up in front of it. And if the playoffs so far are anything to go by, the Heat could be about to successfully complete that mission.

* * * * *

The Knicks and Pacers meet in Game 6 tonight (Sat. May 18) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Ind. Tip-off is scheduled for 8:00 pm ET.

BettingSports has the latest New York Knicks vs. Indiana Pacers odds on 18/5/13 for you to take a look at. Indiana is the favorite heading into the game. Is that good news for the Heat?

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