Has Indiana overtaken Miami?

Factoring in the home-court advantage for a Heat-Pacers playoff series

Updated: December 20, 2013, 9:51 PM ET
By Kevin Pelton | ESPN Insider

LeBron JamesAP Photo/Michael ConroyKeeping hefty Pacers center Roy Hibbert under wraps is a big job for LeBron James and the Heat.

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.