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Experienced Heat, upstart Pacers finally ready to begin Eastern Conference finals


Indiana Pacers' Paul George participates during NBA basketball practice ahead of the Eastern Conference finals Tuesday, May 21, 2013, in Indianapolis. The Miami Heat and the Pacers are scheduled to meet for the second straight postseason starting Wednesday night, with a trip to the NBA Finals awaiting the series winner. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings) (The Associated Press)

For LeBron James, it's a fifth trip to the Eastern Conference finals in seven years. For Dwyane Wade, it's a fifth trip in nine seasons to the NBA's penultimate round.

For the Indiana Pacers, this is pretty much uncharted waters.

Only one current Pacers player has appeared in a conference-final game, and that was Ian Mahinmi, who played exactly 71 seconds in one game of the 2011 West title series without so much as taking a shot.

So if experience means anything, then it's advantage Heat when this Indiana-Miami matchup opens Wednesday night. It should be no surprise that the Heat aren't saying that matters, especially after how the Pacers tested them big-time in last year's second-round series between the clubs and went 2-1 against them in this regular season.