Handicapping Indiana vs Miami Series
The Miami Heat are not one of the great teams in NBA history. They would have been over-run by the Showtime Lakers. The Larry Bird Celtics would have bigged them to death.
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Argue if you want, but we’ll take Jordan and Pippen over LeBron and D-Wade.
And the 4-championships Spurs of the early-2000s with Tim Duncan and David Robinson would have dominated in the paint like no team can today.
That said, in today’s NBA this Heat team is the best the Association has to offer, and sometime next week the South Beach Two will finish off the Indiana Pacers in what passes for the Eastern Conference finals, then begin preparation for its third straight trip to The Finals.
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While the Heat are still a ways from cementing their spots among the giants of NBA history, assuming good health what they have now is the best player on the court in every game they play.
LeBron James is a step up from every other player in the league, and with the Thunder out of the picture, 1.5 steps better than anyone else available to take the court in the playoffs.
Is there anything the Pacers can do to make life uncomfortable for James & the Heat?
Sure, but if the Knicks Eastern semifinal series showed anything, it’s that like all halfway-decent-but-not-great teams, the Pacers are not good enough to hang with the best teams.
Example: In their Game 6 close-out of New York, the Knicks were able to rain 3s on the Pacers in the second half and Indiana’s defense had no idea how to defend the arc.
Any hopes of making this a 7-game anything-can-happen series lies in Indiana’s ability to get max production out of center Roy Hibbert. Hibbert likely will be guarded by Chris Bosh, which is a good thing. For Hibbert, anyway.
If the often-awkward 7-foot-3 Hibbert gets rolling, the Heat will likely throw a few double-teams at him the way the Knicks did on occasion. If he doesn’t? Well, in that care we hope you have the Heat to cover. [ad-6571516]
Depth is a concern, and not for the team you might figure. The Pacers just haven’t gotten great production out of their bench, which has forced coach Frank Vogel to play his starters extended minutes.
In the clincher over the Knicks George Hill, Paul George and Hibbert all played north of 42 minutes (45-plus for George) and the bench contributed only 8 points. Compare that to Miami’s series-ending victory over the Bulls, when the Heat bench played a full 32 percent of the available minutes and contributed 25 of Miami’s 95 points.
There are a few other factors that might benefit the Pacers.
Wade is experiencing occasional pain in his right knee, but when the teams take the court in Game 1 on Wednesday he will have had a full week of rest since last playing. And there are no back-to-backs on the schedule in the playoffs, so the creaky joints will experience plenty of ice and rest.
Second, Indiana was able to beat the Heat twice at home this season. And both were relatively decisive. If the Pacers want to use those wins (87-77 and 102-89) as any kind of template, the plan this time it to hit the boards with a vengeance. Indiana outrebounded Miami by a total of 89-61 in the two victories.
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For this series to be interesting, everything has to go right for the Pacers and lots of things have to go wrong for the Heat. Too big a stretch. And with two boring teams going at it in the West, the NBA absolutely needs Miami to make it to The Finals.
No problem. Heat in 5.