Heat vs. Pacers Game 2: 4 Players Key to Indiana Upset
The Indiana Pacers are in a prime position to shock the world once again. The Pacers were big winners last offseason with their roster upgrades through trades and free agency. They stunned the world earning a 42-24 record and a third place seed in the Eastern conference playoffs. Now, despite a Game 1 loss to the Miami Heat, the Pacers still have a golden opportunity to draw blood and win Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Up until the second half of Game 1, the Pacers were in full control, holding Miami against the ropes with an opportunity to pull an upset in the opener. However, Indiana showed their true colors as a young team by coughing up a lead, forcing bad shots in crucial moments, and winding up in foul trouble early.
The Miami Heat are the unquestioned favorites to make it out the Eastern conference, but the Pacers won't go down easily. A Chris Bosh-less roster is a huge positive for the Pacers, and they must take advantage starting in game 2.
Here are four vital players who must show up today against Miami.
1. Danny Granger
Danny Granger was essentially invisible in Game 1 vs. Miami. As the team's leading scorer and their best player, performances similar to Sunday are inexcusable.
Granger scored seven points on 1-10 shooting from the field, with his only field goal coming in the third quarter. Granger also found himself in early foul trouble trying to guard LeBron James. Granger came up small on offense as well as defense, and that can't continue if the Pacers want to win this series.
Nobody has a bigger assignment in this series than Granger as he must defend James and be one of the prime scorers for Indiana. Nothing is easy about those two tasks, especially scoring against the Heat defense, but seven points from Granger isn't acceptable.
It's a positive sign knowing that the Pacers held a strong lead throughout the first half without great production from Granger. However, this team isn't better without him and they'll need him to rebound in Game 2.
2. David West
If anybody should be licking their chops for Game 2, it should be David West.
Chris Bosh is now out indefinitely after a nasty abdominal strain in the second quarter of Game 1. West was already a more physical forward than Bosh and now can exploit Miami's interior defense. Bosh isn't known as a tough defender, but he has the speed and length to cover the paint. The absence of Bosh in the postseason will be a huge loss, and West must smell blood.
West recorded a double-double in Game 1 with 17 points and 12 rebounds, and those numbers can inflate with absence of Bosh. West won't have a cake walk against Joel Anthony, Udonis Haslem, and Ronny Turiaf, but Miami will have to pick their poison when defending West's inside and outside game, as well as Roy Hibbert down low.
Expect LeBron James to spend time guarding West down low. James is strong enough to body West, but not crafty enough to hold him down for four quarters. West needs to have another quality performance in order for the Pacers to steal Game 2.
3. Roy Hibbert
Noticing a trend yet?
The Indiana Pacers front court holds the fate of the team's future in their hands. The Pacers' bigs had respectable stats in Game 1, but are now capable of bigger and better in Game 2.
Roy Hibbert also put together a double-double campaign with 17 points and 11 rebounds, but now has a chance to dominate the Heat front court. Hibbert's finally grown as one of the better centers in the NBA and must prove his value in Game 2.
The 7'2" All-Star center can take over this series against the undersized forwards of Miami. If he happens to catch double teams, he must make the right passes to his open teammates. Hibbert has no reason not to be dominant against the Heat.
4. Leandro Barbosa
The role players of the Miami Heat earn most of their offensive pay as products of what LeBron James and Dwyane Wade create. Whether LeBron is setting up his shooters on the perimeter, or the front court bigs are scrapping for offensive rebounds off of misses, they are effective mostly as products of the superstars.
Indiana on the other hand has role players who can create their own offense, especially Leandro Barbosa.
Barbosa is still one of the fastest players in the league, with an effective jump shot and ability to drive the lane. The former 2006-07 sixth man of the year creates matchup problems for Miami and he must take advantage of that. Miami plays great team defense, but a playmaker like Barbosa can put the Heat on their heels and do plenty of damage. After only 9 points in Game 1, Barbosa is due for a better outing tonight.