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Insider

Has Indiana overtaken Miami?

12/20/2013 - NBA
Keeping hefty Pacers center Roy Hibbert under wraps is a big job for LeBron James and the Heat. AP Photo/Michael Conroy

It's only December, but when the Indiana Pacers visit the Miami Heat tonight (7 ET, ESPN and WatchESPN.com), it's as close as we can get to a sure-thing playoff preview 25 games into the season.

Indiana and Miami have played each other the last two springs, including last season's dramatic seven-game conference finals, and have pulled away from the rest of the weak Eastern Conference to establish themselves as the most likely top two seeds. My season simulations show a Pacers and Heat rematch in the Eastern Conference finals happening two-thirds of the time, and that seems low.

While LeBron James' sprained ankle could prevent this from being a true series preview (he's a game-time decision), the last meeting between these teams until late March will be meaningful either way. Let's take a look at some key questions about Indiana and Miami.