MIAMI -- No matter how dysfunctional and inexplicably inconsistent the
While the Eastern Conference top-seeded Pacers were stretched to seven games against the sub-.500
They were also No. 1 in the regular season in defensive field-goal percentage and they held the Heat to an average of 88.5 points in four games, second fewest output by Miami against any opponent (79.7 vs. the Bucks).
Spearheaded by enigmatic, 7-foot-2, 290-pound center
"Hibbert is very, very good in protecting the rim," Heat superstar
"Their [team] is predicated around defense. I've been around Nate McMillan with the Olympic team and I know how passionate he is about the defensive side of things. People never bring up his name, but I know he's the catalyst behind it."
While Hibbert and his regular-season 2.3 blocks-per-game often dissuade or alter James and
The Pacers led the Eastern Conference in three-point field-goal defense (34.5%) during the season and are fourth in the postseason (32.9%).
"They're well-drilled; they know what they're doing and where they're trying to direct you," Heat Coach
"All those things have to be working together, otherwise they can get you in some tough situations."
The Heat have made 9.1 3-pointers per game in the playoffs, most among the final four teams remaining, and the bulk of that credit goes to 6-11
"If I'm matched up against [Hibbert], his strength is down low and my strength is moving around, so it's going to be a constant battle of imposing our strengths on each other," Bosh said. "I'm going to play my game, whether that's spread or down low."
Rapid ball movement will be essential for the Heat to advance, so James in his role as point-forward and starting point guard
"They try to keep us to one side of the floor and do a good job of getting back on defense," said Chalmers, whose 37 assists to just 10 turnovers is the 10th most efficient ratio in the postseason. "They have a lot of length and toughness, so we have to keep the ball moving and everyone involved."
Stephenson vs. Wade
Wade and Stephenson have a history of scuffling with each other on the court, including earlier this season when the Pacers' emotional guard was ejected in the fourth quarter of Indiana's 84-83 victory.
On Saturday, Stephenson stirred the pot when he told reporters that he'd try to make Wade's "knee flare up."
"I think his knee is messed up, so I've got to be extra aggressive and make him run and have him running around and make his knee flare up or something," Stephenson said. "I'll do anything as much as possible.
"It's just basketball. If I see D. Wade walking in the street, I won't try to get him. It's just basketball and just playing hard against each other. We both have a goal and neither of us is going to allow that to happen easily. I don't got no problems with them, but on the court there's no friends."
Wade, who spoke to the media before Stephenson's remarks hit the Internet, was asked if it was difficult to maintain his composure against Stephenson.
"During a long series there are guys who aggravate each other," Wade said. "It's just about who can stay in their game more. Every now and then I get into certain things, but I really don't.
"When I feel myself getting out of it, whether it's a player or a call, especially in the playoffs, I try to snap out of it fast and get back to what wins."
Heat players couldn't remember ever being this healthy as they enter the Eastern Conference finals, and James noticed that other teams weren't as fortunate with Thunder All-Star forward