No doubt the parsing has started among the national media and certainly within the ranks of the local Miami media. Following practice today, the Pacers met the media, and as usual handled questions with honest intentions to express their feelings headed into Game 1.
Paul George talked about playing with an edge and making it personal. David West talked about the Heat ducking the Wizards. But Lance Stephenson made the most noise rambling on about his rivalry with Dwyane Wade, saying he wanted to run Wade until his (Wade's) knee flared up. Naturally, Lance went to Twitter to clarify.
"They are the champs. They are the high water mark. We are here to beat them. We don't try to hurt anyone but ... http://t.co/4F5P6wzuVZ— Lance Stephenson (@StephensonLance) May 18, 2014
One of the reasons the Pacers are such a great team to follow is because they play real nice with the media. Players and coaches are accommodating and actually give answers to questions. Oh, and they don't really care about any perceptions taken from those answers. Early in the season, they were asked in every town about trying to win the top seed in the East. They answered in the affirmative and then were accused of talking about it all the time. No, they were answering questions all the time. It is all a sideshow, but with plenty of off days in the ECF, no doubt the media sessions will provide some entertaining fodder. Here's a nice compilation of clips from the media time on Saturday.
Chris Bosh in a corner, Ray Allen lurking
There is nothing more frustrating then throwing some solid defense at LeBron James, cutting off his scoring lane and forcing him to pass the ball, only to see another Heat player spot up from behind the arc and knock down a three.
Mike Miller is no longer with the Heat but they will still throw up their share of back-breakers from behind the arc. This year, Chris Bosh nearly tripled his three-point attempts and when he's in the left corner you are in trouble. The scary thing, is Bosh's length makes defending the long shot a real challenge. If David West is marking him in the corner, LeBron has more room to burst to the rim.
Also, Ray Allen isn't as prolific from behind the arc as he was early in his career, but if he alters one or two games in a series Allen earns his check. Just ask the Spurs or Nets. Ray Allen hit one memorable shot against each that completely flipped those respective series in favor of the Heat. The Pacers have done a good job of defending the arc and Allen in particular, but he's always lurking waiting the split-second opportunity to make a critical shot.
Paul George vs. LeBron James
This is less subplot and more main plot, but that is primarily focused on Paul George defending LeBron James. The key to successfully neutralizing the matchup is for PG to stay aggressive on offense and force LeBron to play the defensive end.
In past games, LBJ has spent time guarding Lance Stephenson, essentially giving him a break on the defensive end. If and when this happens, PG has to assert himself to draw James into a more demanding role on defense.
No problem, right PG?