How the Pacers Can Win
Though the Miami praise is running rampant through the sports media world, in part because Bill Simmons happened to attend Game 6 of the Boston-Miami Eastern Conference Finals last year and in part because the Miami Heat absolutely dominated the regular season, and in part because LeBron James had a historically, almost comically-good season, Miami was essentially handed the NBA Finals trophy sometime in early April. Though I understand the chorus of “27-game winning streak!” “LeBron is the greatest athlete in inter-planetary history!” “66 wins!” I’m exhausted by it, and as a Celtics fan, I cringe when I hear it.
So…here’s my best-case scenario for this upcoming Pacers-Heat series:
1. Paul George hast to take care of the ball against perhaps the best perimeter defense in the NBA. George needs help from the other George, Mr. Hill. When the Pacers lose, George’s turnover totals are 4, 5, 4 and 7. George Hill needs to stay on the court and provide some ball-handling relief from the intense pressure of Miami. When the Pacers turn it over, Miami’s fast break will annihilate them. For Indiana to have a shot, they have to keep the pace down. (Fans of entertainment may be saddened by this, but fans of basketball will have fun watching Hibbert operate).
2. Roy Hibbert does not get called for fouls at the rim, because he raises his gargantuan arms straight up in the air, keeping dunks from happening on the majority of those LeBron/Wade drives.
3. Roy Hibbert continues to amass an insane amount of offensive rebounds (32 in 6 games vs. NYK, 23 in 6 games vs. ATL)
4. George Hill feels better and hits his three-pointers. In the three games Indiana has lost with Hill this post-season, he has shot 2 of 14 from distance. In the eight wins, he’s connected on 19 of 54. You might say, “19 of 54! That’s only 35%!” You’d be right, but Indiana needs balanced shot distribution to keep from Spoelstra tilting his defense completely onto Paul George and Hibbert. Also, of those 35 missed three-pointers, I bet Roy Hibbert grabbed 8 offensive rebounds.
5. Lance Stephenson gives Indiana a jolt of adrenaline at all the right moments. If there is a weakness to Miami, its still their bench and how they play with Chris Bosh off the court. ThoughChris Anderson has been solid through the first two rounds, the penetration of George and Stephenson have to get Bosh into foul trouble, in order for Indiana to control these games.
6. We can’t forget David West. The consummate professional, West has a consistent 18-foot jumper and rugged, physical play that will wear down his opponent. If the Pacers can get West some open looks, he will be a factor in this series. David West lets the game come to him, which means he is the perfect role player on this very balanced Pacers team. Don’t nap on West.
7. Dwyane Wade’s knee is not right. I don’t mean his left knee, or his right knee. I’m not sure which knee. One of them is wrong, and that may put an insane amount of pressure on LeBron.
8. LeBron has already dealt with the semi-abusive defense of the Chicago Bulls for the last two weeks. I don’t think LeBron wants to have to put the whole team on his shoulders against Indiana’s excellent defense. And I know LeBron doesn’t want to meet Roy Hibbert at the rim.
9. Norris Cole must miss more than 20% of his shots from distance. Against Chicago, Cole shot 9 of 11, that’s right 9 of 11, from long-range. This cannot happen if the Pacers are going to win 4 times in 7 games. In two pivotal games (Game 2 and Game 3) Cole combined to shoot 13 of 16 from the field, scoring 18 points in each game. 36 points on 16 shots in two games? That was one of the biggest reasons Miami survived Games 2 and 3. Meanwhile, the ghost of Ray Allen went 4 of 17 from distance against Chicago.
To read the complete post (more on the contrast between the cultural differences between Indianapolis and Miami, as well as some personal connections to Indiana and South Florida) click here:
Thanks for Reading and "Let's Go, Pacers!"