Not Quite Miller Time But Still
Just finished watching the Miami Heat get their asses handed to them by the Indiana Pacers. I can’t lie and say that I predicted this outcome. When Chris Bosh went down, I said that Miami will miss him more than some “NBA experts” believed. I did not think that Miami would fall apart at the seams, but I did think Indiana would make a series out of this second round match-up. However, after the whipping the Pacers just laid on the Heat, I am willing to say that Indiana will win this series. I will also go out on a limb and predict that they make it to the NBA Finals, where they will play the winner of the Spurs and Thunder.
I was going to write about the Miami Heat’s inability to play defense, shoot from the outside, and the argument that will be highlighted between Dwayne Wade and head coach Eric Spoelstra. However, after thinking about it, I thought that would be doing a disservice to the real story of the night…how well the Indiana Pacers played. I think Indiana has kind of shined this season by staying out of the lime light. Anybody know that Indiana was 42-24 this season? All the talk going into the playoffs was the East was a two team race between the Bulls and the Heat. Even if Indiana might be assisted in their playoff run by big injuries to potential opponents, that’s part of the game. The Pacers finished with the third best record in the Eastern Conference for a number of reasons.
The architect of the Pacers is the legendary Larry Bird. Unlike a lot of executives, Bird stays under the radar, and given his celebrity, this is a pretty unbelievable feat. The Pacers have built their team by drafting great players and trading for and signing solid role players, not using the Miami and New York Knick model of signing the top named free agents. They have followed an example laid out by the San Antonio Spurs, which is not a bad model to emulate.
Their homegrown talent is led by Danny Granger, who is having a down playoff this far offensively, though he averaged 17 ppg on the year, put up 17 tonight, and consistently boards and plays defense. He also showed tonight that he isn’t scared of LeBron James, as he got into LJ’s face after LeBron threw an elbow at Granger’s direction. Young big man Roy Hibbert put up 19 points and 18 boards in what was probably the biggest game of his career. With his size, his youth, and the pedigree of Georgetown Centers that he is following into the league, who knows how good Hibbert can be down the line?How about the role players the Pacers have acquired? David West was always a really good player with the New Orleans Hornets who went fairly unnoticed even as he made a few All-Star games. Tonight: 14 points and 9 boards. George Hill, who came from the San Antonio Spurs system, is a young guard who put up a cool 20 points tonight. Guards Leandro Barbosa and Darren Collison are two other guards the Pacers brought in from other teams who are consistent contributors off the deep Indiana bench.
The Pacers are a team with a rich basketball history. I think all New York Basketball fans remember those Reggie Miller teams in the 90’s and the great rivalry that existed with the Knicks. In the past few years, Indiana’s identity changed to a team of grinders to a team of thugs (Ron Artest, Steven Jackson, Jermaine O’Neal), guys who jump into the stands to fight fans. The mid-american Indiana citizens have been dying for a team of likable personalities, especially one that plays team ball. The Pacers are for real and look for them to make a lot more noise in the playoffs!