When asked on ESPN's First Take who he would give the upper hand to in a seven game series between the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat, reigning Coach of the Year, George Karl made the following tempered, yet still relatively bold statement:
"It's December and to really get crazy on comparisons and what is going to happen and where this is going to go, but, you know, right now, if I am in Vegas, and I have to bet today - I'm betting on the Indiana Pacers."
After a night in which LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh - Miami's Big Three - combined for a whopping 71 points and steadily chipped away at a 15 point deficit for a 97-94 victory, the former coach of the Denver Nuggets stated that he thinks the Pacers should take away more positives from the latest showdown between the two Eastern Conference heavyweights, while the Heat should be more aware of their weaknesses in the head-to-head match-up.
According to Karl, the games between the Pacers and Heat are a matter of size versus speed. During the First Take debate, he noted that last night's game should have revealed to Miami that they are going to have to play big if they want to defeat Indiana (hence the reason why Erik Spoelstra turned to Chris Bosh and Chris Anderson to close out the game, when prior to last night, the duo had only played a collective 20 minutes together this season).
Furthermore, after lauding the Pacers usage of their size, whether on the perimeter with their length, or with their Bigs in the paint, he firmly stated the following:
"Wade and LeBron won that game last night because Hibbert's presence defensively was not on the court."
Certainly, this is a valid point given that, due to foul trouble last night, the Pacers' rim protector was able to play just 22 minutes, and thus contributed only six points and two rebounds for the game. Compare those numbers to last Tuesday's game in Indiana in which the Big Dawg played 37 minutes, scored a team-leading 24 points, and contributed to holding Miami's Big Three to 25 points fewer than they recorded Wednesday night in South Beach. Now, contemplate this, with such limited production out of the center position, the Heat only won by three points (not to mention they had to come from behind to get the "W").
Another reason why Karl believes the Pacers should take away more good than bad from their latest contest is his belief that Indiana could have had the game firmly in their control (estimating a 15-20 point lead at the half), if they did not turn the ball over so carelessly in the first quarter. In his opinion, the turnover count was a factor early in the game. Karl, rightfully so, believes that all the giveaways gave Miami confidence when the game could have been further out of reach.
However, the COY also pointed out the surprising dichotomy between the two teams' demeanor during the game. Here, he said that once Indiana was able to get composed they were able to dominate - allowing them to take a double figure lead in the second quarter. While, quite tellingly, the team that claimed that last night's game did not have any added meaning was the same squad that George felt displayed "bad body language" and "confusion" throughout the match-up.
In summation, because Roy Hibbert was limited by foul trouble, because it took a Herculean effort out of Dwyane Wade, because the Pacers led the contest for over 35 minutes, because Chris Bosh finally connected on just one of his last fifteen three point shots, because the Heat seemed to lose their composure, and because it took LeBron James' MVP-level will to get a victory over what Karl terms as a "very good basketball team," the reigning coach of the year believes the Pacers need to do very little differently to win the next game against the Miami Heat - simply, he stated, they should just play with more "confidence" and "togetherness."
In the midst of this debate over which team would be the potential victor in a seven game series, Stephen A. Smith interjected with a rather lengthy, yet still demonstrative monologue about historical trends in the NBA that stemmed off of some of Karl's points about the Indiana Pacers.
According to the ESPN analyst, "There does come a point in time when it's your time."
As elementary as this may sound, it is the perfect statement to describe the changing of the guard in the NBA when a new champion is named, or an old title holder is defeated.
At this point, Smith took a trip down memory lane recalling when media members watched the Philadelphia 76ers in 1983, and questioned if the Doctor would be able to get his first championship. He recalled all the years when the Larry Bird led Celtics faced off against the Lakers in the finals until finally the Bad Boy Pistons were able to break through. He remembered when Jordan and Pippen got tired of waiting for their turn in the spotlight, and swept Detroit.
As Smith says, "you see this kind of stuff all the time when it comes to NBA basketball when your time just appears to have arrived."
While Smith is not ready to place a bet on the Indiana Pacers in Vegas, he did add the following statement:
"In the month of December, when we have all these months to look forward to before May and June - we cannot definitively say that their time has not arrived yet. By May, it may be their time because it looks like it is going to be tough for Miami."
Is this the Pacers' time?
That, of course, will not be determined until 57 more regular season games are played.
But in the meantime, George Karl likes the hunger he sees from the Indiana Pacers, stating:
"What I saw in the game last night was a dedicated basketball team. I mean, Indiana last year was committed to see how good they were. I see in Indiana now a dedication to the journey that they have to go through that they learned about last year, and maybe, learned about two years ago. They know they have to be more dedicated and more focused than the Miami Heat - they can't just be equal. They have to be more focused and more committed."
Karl then added, "I think they are."
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