The Indiana Pacers ended the New York Knicks’ season on Saturday with a 106-99 victory, winning the series 4-2. The Pacers will play the Miami Heat on Wednesday for game one of the eastern conference finals. This marks the seventh conference finals appearance for the Pacers since they joined the NBA in 1976, and their first appearance in nine years.

Last season the Pacers were beaten by the Heat in the semifinals after blowing a 2-1 lead. Whether you blame it on inexperience, chocking under pressure, or pure intimidation, regardless of the cause, that was then and this is now. The Pacers are now contenders that Miami sees as a threat.

“Anytime you lose in the playoffs you learn,” Heat forward Shane Battier said of the Pacers. “They were an upstart last year; they’re a contender now. The jump from upstart to contender, I don’t know what the tangible description to that is, but they’re a legitimate contender now. They have the confidence of a contender, and so where last year might have been overwhelming, they’re not going to be overwhelmed by it this year.”

Now that they’re facing the Pacers again, Miami prepares to tip this series off with a win and not repeat the mistakes they made in the series opener against the Bulls. The Heat have been participating in daily condition-oriented practices.

“There are no shortcuts to it,” Spoelstra said. “You can’t cheat the game. So you have to work at it. We had a day like [Friday] where you’re almost a week out from competing and you’re coming off a very intense series. Your natural reaction is not to want to come in here and really get after it and sweat and condition.”

But hard work pays off, and Miami has benefited from their hard work so far.

According to their 27-game win streak and consecutive eastern conference finals appearance, it’s safe to say that it’s not wise to bet against the Heat. But if season match-ups count for anything, the Pacers could give Heat fans a reason to favor Indiana over Miami.

Indiana faced the Heat three times during the regular season and won two of the three meetings. Although the Feb. 1st win was close to blowout (102-89), the Pacers had home court advantage which proved to play a part in their win since they were unable to beat the Heat in Miami on Feb. 8th, losing 91-105.

Due to injury, Pacers All-Star forward Danny Granger only played five regular season games this year and none of which included Miami. Without Granger, the Pacers defense is still able to prevent successful three-point shots.

Pacers need Paul George to deliver consistently throughout the series, limit LeBron James, and force other Miami players to step up in order to win.

Miami isn’t a shooting team, but when James gets hot from three point range, teams need all the luck they can get to stop him.

If the Pacer’s defense can stop Miami’s offense they’ll have a shot at their first championship title since 1973.