The Indiana Pacers find themselves in an eerily similar situation to the one they face in the playoffs last season.
Down 3-2 to the Miami Heat. At home for Game 6 after a kerfuffle involving Tyler Hansbrough. The Heat minus a big man (Birdman the big man) thanks to the kerfuffle involving Tyler Hansbrough. Oh, and LeBron James.
There are plenty of differences that favor the Pacers this time around, though. For one, the young Pacers have been through the fire of getting closed out by the Heat last year. Since then Paul George has improved drastically, as has Roy Hibbert. Lance Stephenson has emerged as a factor, if only on the Fieldhouse floor. David West remains a rock, combining with Hibbert to give the Pacers a strong interior advantage.
On the Miami side of things, it doesn't appear that the Heat can rely on Dwyane Wade to go next planet on them like he did in Game 6 last year by scoring 41 points and leading a second-half ambush of the Pacers. Wade and Chris Bosh remain hobbled with knee and ankle issues which puts them in supporting roles. Mike Miller knocked down four frustrating three-balls but he's not a factor this time around. Still, the Pacers can't let Shane Battier or Ray Allen assume that role.
The biggest thing the Heat have going for them is the smell of the NBA Finals. They've been here before and marched on to the finals the past two seasons. If things are tight down the stretch, that experience may put the Heat over the top.
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