A Pacers-Heat Eastern Conference Final has been drilled into our heads since day one of the 2013-14 NBA season. Considering that both Indiana and Miami have been New York’s biggest rivals since the mid-1990′s, this should pile on what’s sure to be a long summer for Knicks fans, but of late, these two teams have established a dislike of their own, so it should make for some interesting basketball. If they do wind up meeting in this year’s playoffs, it’ll be for the third consecutive season, but surprisingly, these the Pacers and Heat never met in the playoffs before 2004. Maybe it was because they were always being ousted by the Knicks.
The rosters of the 2004 Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat didn’t really consist of some the enemies that fueled the rivalries with the Knicks, but much to the chagrin of Knicks fans, Reggie Miller was still scampering around screens and heaving up clutch threes. He averaged just 11.0 points per game in the series, but that’s approximately 11.0 points more than New Yorkers wanted him to. While the Knicks floated around in NBA purgatory for most of the decade, by 2004, the Heat had already rebuilt there roster and were just a couple years away from an NBA championship. Still, it wasn’t easy for New York to pick a winner that year.
The series also featured some future Knicks, including Fred Jones, Al Harrington, Jonathan Bender, Ron Artest, and the soon to be acquired Lamar Odom. Of course, all of these guys were WAY past their prime by the time they made it to New York, because that’s just how basketball works in the Big Apple. And yes, I’m talking about you too, Brooklyn.
As for the actual basketball, the 2004 NBA Playoffs were a coming out party for a rookie named Dwyane Wade. Although he couldn’t bring his team past the second round that year, Wade proved to be the best player on the floor at all times, putting up 21.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 5.7 assists per game in the series.
Indiana won the series in six games, but it wasn’t easy. Both teams took care of home court advantage through the first five games, as the Pacers jumped out to a 2-0 series lead before dropping the next two games at American Airlines Arena. Reggie Miller and company finally earned a hard fought road victory in the deciding sixth game by clamping down defensively and allowing just 13 points in the second quarter, a season-low for Miami.
The Pacers went on to face the eventual champion Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals. At the time, Detroit was a well oiled machine and in retrospect, was the best Eastern Conference team of the decade. Ben Wallace, Sheed, and company took Indiana down in six games before doing the unthinkable and steamrolling the Kobe-Shaq Lakers (the version with Gary Payton and Karl Malone too) in five.