The circumstances are far different, but the results eerily familiar. The Pacers were a young and healthy team dying for some playoff experience when they faced off against the No. 1 seed Chicago Bulls in the 2011 playoffs. The 2011-2012 Orlando Magic were a playoff-veteran bunch limping badly due to a major injury to their star player, and needless, but backbreaking drama surrounding that same superstar and his disheveled coach. Both teams were supposed to get plastered in their first-round matchup; both teams were supreme underdogs; and yet, both teams fought viciously, making their opponent (and opponent's fans) squirm as presumed blowout series quickly turned into a five-game slugfests.
The most striking difference between the two deals with future prospects. With young, developing talent, a young coach, and keen front-office decision making, the Pacers were primed to leap forward in 2012; the lockout only delayed the inevitable. The Magic going forward are a superstar-driven mess with little direction by way of the coaching and front-office ranks because...well...because no one knows where Dwight Howard will choose to ultimately place them.
With so many differences on the table, why bring up the parallels at all? Because it's time to rekindle the 2011 flame. It's time to take a page out of the overmatched Orlando Magic circa 2012. The Pacers got their taste of being the alpha dog and expectant winners, now it's time to go back to their Vogelized Rocky II roots. The Heat are coming. The most-glorified superstar trifecta to don NBA uniforms are coming, and they're coming with their sweep-worthy hype and their 8-championships bravado. Oh, and they're pretty darn good ball players on the court, too.
It's time for one of Danny Granger's "we'd rather play the Heat than Celtics" type of quote. It's time for Vogel to start making wild declarations about how this team will soon be shocking the world. It's time for a vintage playoff David West love tap (prime candidate: Christopher Wesson Bosh). The Pacers need to get Windy City nasty again. Imagine that confidence-snatching mindset combined with real-life, big-boy NBA talent (which this Blue and Gold roster just so happens to already contain). It's bound to make things infinitely more interesting in South Beach.
See you Sunday, Miami.