As the closing seconds wound down in Game 3 between David and Goliath, it appeared as though the giant had a developed something of a pronounced limp. The Indiana Pacers appear to have found the giant’s weakness, and with their sling-aimed center, are poised to exploit it and bring down the Miami Heat.
Before the beginning of the series, few gave the blue-collar Pacers much of a chance. The loss of Chris Bosh obviously hurts the Heat, but even without him, many felt the remaining South Beach duo would still be dominant enough to elevate Miami over a lunch-box Pacers squad that lacks Miami’s star power.
Back when ‘the Big Three’ were still trumpeting their inevitable dynastic reign, Larry Bird was quietly laying the foundations for a team built much in the Spurs mold–a strong starting lineup with well defined roles, buttressed by great depth off the bench. An approach viewed by many as building a team ‘the right way.’
Not being able to rely on the marquee appeal of the Indianapolis market, Larry Bird went about adding team-first players who would complement and elevate their teammates. The perennially underrated All-Star David West was signed to join the equally unheralded Danny Granger in the starting five.
Louis Amundson was brought in to join Tyler Hansbrough to bang bodies, clog lanes and crash boards. Barbosa teams up with Darren Collison, George Hill and the developing Paul George to represent an embarrassment of riches at guard. Drop in the continually emerging Roy Hibbert in at the five, and Frank Vogel has a bevy of options at his disposal that Erik Spoelstra simply cannot hope to account for. Wade and James can’t start in all five spots after all.
At this point however, these Pacers have not been tested in the fire quite like this Heat squad, and they have to be careful not to get too caught up in their own success. If David gets cocky, Goliath may yet prevail, but as the other mid-market teams, cities, and fans cheer from the sidelines, David’s battle has become bigger than himself.
The Pacers represent the hopes of all those jilted teams and fan bases that have seen their stars leave for brighter lights and flashier locales and want to see the Heat fall. If Indiana succeeds and Executive of the Year Larry Bird finds himself with some free time during the offseason, he might want to think about embarking on a motivational speaking tour of small and middle NBA markets. After all, if Indiana can do it, why not anyone?