LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, Miami's "Big Three" will draw the undivided attention of the Indiana Pacers' defense in the Eastern Conference Finals.
But Frank Vogel prefers to account for everyone one the floor and instead insists his team prepare for the Big Four. The "four" in this case includes all of the complimentary players for the Heat, especially those hovering around the three-point line ready to take open shots when the defense has to help.
The Pacers guard the arc better than any other team in the NBA so they don't like giving up open looks. Plus, when you have shooters like Ray Allen, Shane Battier and Mike Miller, leaving them open to knock down shots makes the Heat virtually unbeatable.
Last year the Pacers fared pretty well in slowing down the three-point shots, but the Heat have a better supporting cast this time around. The scary part is that Ray Allen and Shane Battier haven't shot the three particularly well so far in the playoffs, nor has Mario Chalmers and Mike Miller.
One guy who is playing a bigger role this year and has been a difference maker in the post-season is reserve guard Norris Cole. He's shot nearly 70 percent from three land and played a lot of minutes off the bench. Something has to give with Cole's numbers, but the second-year players is plenty confident and a big advantage for the Heat off the bench.
The Pacers best matchup is probably the starting units with Udonis Haslem on the floor. Roy Hibbert can check Haslem with David West working on Chris Bosh. When the Heat go small with Battier instead of Haslem, Hibbert will have to keep up with Bosh which means the mid-range pick n pop is in play.
The Heat are also better off the bench if they stay big with Birdman Andersen adding size and athleticism to the front court as a vast improvement over Joel Anthony and Dexter Pittman. But the main challenge for the Pacers will be keeping the shooters from getting open looks and torching the Pacers from behind the arc.
The Pacers do have a better supporting cast as well, although it is hard to tell sometimes. Still, Ian Mahinmi and Sam Young in particular were brought in this year with the primary objective of helping against the Heat. Young is physical enough to give spot minutes of defensive help on LeBron and Mahinmi can help keep a big around the rim to challenge drives through the lane.
So, yeah, the Big Three will likely get theirs in some form or fashion in each game, but not letting the Big Four all get going on the same night is the only way the Pacers can put themselves in position to win.
Then to take advantage of that position they will need to take care of the ball and score some points. The Heat will likely pressure the ball and double West and Hibbert to try and ramp up the turnovers. Coughing up the ball against Miami is a death sentence so minimizing those mistakes, again should help put the Pacers in position to win.
So can the Pacers take care of business at both ends of the floor four times? That's what it will take to get past the Heat. We'll find out starting tomorrow night.