Miami Heat Massive Favorites in Conference Finals

LeBron shouldn't have any trouble in the next round, or maybe even the rest of the way.

Now the (irrational) worry sets in.

It wasn't exactly tough for the Miami Heat to take down the Bucks or the Bulls. It was a war of attrition more than anything - wait long enough, and Monta Ellis' inefficient shooting or the Bulls' Self Destructing Legs (now available at K-Mart!) will take them out. Against the Knicks or Pacers, though, the expectation is that the Heat won't have that luxury.

But there is a reason those are just expectations rather than hard facts. The odds, meanwhile, say the Eastern Conference Finals may just be another leisurely stroll down South Beach for the defending champs. We've already explored the possibilities for the Grizzlies moving forward, but with Miami's championship odds at 55.1 percent, the Western Conference Finals may just be a competition for first loser.

Heat vs. Pacers

Most Likely Outcome: Miami Heat in 5

4 Games5 Games6 Games7 GamesTotal Win Odds

How Miami Will Win: Run Their Normal Offense

Considering the Pacers currently hold an 86 percent chance of beating the Knicks (3-1 series leads have a tendency to do that), this will be the likely Eastern Conference Finals in a few days. And that sight you see is Paul George cringing a bit at the thought of playing the Heat after flourishing against the Knicks' clogged toilet offense the past four games.

Indiana specializes in throwing other teams off their game. After averaging the eighth-best effective field goal percentage (eFG%) in the NBA at .515 during the regular season, the Knicks are dead-last in the playoffs at .459. The Atlanta Hawks - sixth with a .517 eFG% during the regular season - finished the first round at only a .463 eFG% in six games. Thus is the issue with playing Indiana, who led the NBA with a .453 defensive eFG%, .016 percentage points ahead of the next closest team (OKC).

But Miami just doesn't shoot that poorly. Like, ever. In 82 regular season games, the Heat only shot worse than .453 eFG% three times. And each of those games, against the Grizzlies, Celtics, and Warriors, were primarily the result of shooting 27 percent or under from long-range. Their worst shooting performance in four regular season games against Indiana was a .471 eFG% game on January 8; they shot at least .500 every single other time against the Pacers this season.

If Miami continues to shoot that well, the Indiana offense might not be able to keep up. Sure, Indiana may hold the significant offensive rebounding edge, but how much do extra opportunities mean when your .479 regular season eFG% sits 22nd in the NBA? It will likely take an outlier offensive performance from both Indiana and Miami for the Pacers to take even one game, let alone four.

Heat vs. Knicks

Most Likely Outcome: Miami Heat in 5

4 Games5 Games6 Games7 GamesTotal Win Odds
New York2.20%4.30%10.19%8.27%24.96%

How Miami Will Win: Keep New York's Shooting Cold

Here's a dirty little secret that you may not have realized: not only are the Heat the hottest shooting team in the playoffs at .540 eFG% (the Warriors are only at .523), they're also the best at limiting their opponent's shot as well. Yup, their .451 defensive eFG% in the playoffs beats out Atlanta by .004 and Indiana by .008, making for an absolutely deadly combination that is next to impossible to beat.

If the Knicks magically come back to face the Heat in the Conference Finals, it will likely be on the back of extraordinarily hot shooting and limiting turnovers. That is how they won Game 2 after all - a .551 eFG% and a turnover percentage 16 percent lower than Indiana's extraordinarily high rate. You'd think Carmelo would need to shoot better than .421 eFG% at some point, right?

Given each team's respective playoff performances, though, I'm not so sure that any hot shooting would automatically continue into the Conference Finals. LeBron allowed opposing power forwards to shoot just .502 eFG% against him this season, a number that has gone down even further in the playoffs because of his second gear. He will be guarding Melo. Melo has a 37.7 percent usage rate so far these playoffs. I think you can see my logic trail here.

If Carmelo doesn't get going against the Heat, the Knicks don't stand a chance in the least. Nobody else will even have the opportunities to make up the difference. And something tells me LeBron will make that task as difficult as humanly possible.