As I wrote the other day, the Pacers took a much longer (and more windy) road than anyone expected, but here they are in the Conference Finals – something most of us expected all along. 

I could sit here and write a “Pacers-Heat East Finals Preview!”, but it doesn’t feel necessary.  The fact is that the Pacers’ coaches, players, media, and fans know everything there is to know about Miami.  It’s very similar to the Knicks in the 1990s – you know exactly what you’re going to get from Riley, Ewing, Mason, Oakley, et al.  So, I’ll just throw out a prediction instead…

The Pacers have no excuse to not win this series.  There have homecourt advantage, unlike 1994, 1995, 1998, and 2013.  You can’t play the “they’re not used to this stage” card like you could in 1994 and 2013.  No offense to LeBron, but the reigning regular season, All-Star Game, and Finals MVP Michael Jordan and a 62-win Bulls team aren’t standing in their way (1998).  There may be some phantom fouls, but there won’t be a fluky four-point play (1999), nor will there be a Pistons’ defense holding Indiana to 72 points per game (2004).  They talked about getting the #1 seed all year long - they have it.  They talked about learning from 2012 and 2013, and getting another opportunity to de-throne LeBron and Miami - they have that, too.

Again, no excuse.

I picked against them in 2012 and in 2013, but the Pacers say they would’ve beaten the Heat last year had the final game been played in Indianapolis.  I’m asking them to put their money where their mouth is:  Pacers in 7.