Heat vs. Pacers: A Learning Experience for a Young Team and Organization
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Indiana brought a balanced attack with a number of guys able to score, but no real go-to guy. It's the opposite of Miami's bread and butter, which lies within the Big Three of Chris Bosh, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
Center Roy Hibbert emerged this year being the Pacers' only All-Star and had some excellent games in the first round against Orlando. He and David West would be key to beating Miami, especially with Bosh's game one injury because he was all they had that was worth anything down low.
So what happened?
Comparing regular season to postseason statistics is a relative push. Some guys brought increased production while others declined, but nothing particularly stands out from the box score. What does stand out are the things you can't track with stats.
In the games the Pacers won, they made an effort to pound the ball inside to Hibbert and West, exploiting the Heat's inside game. But the losses in the series came from guys simply not showing up.
Danny Granger had one really solid, I'm-the-star-of-this-team performance in a Game three blowout in which Wade was nonexistent. He proved that he just isn't the caliber of player necessary to take over and will a team to victory.
This series could have been Paul George's coming out party. He's a guy who many around the league have said has the potential to emerge as the Pacers' star.
PG has a solid jumper combined with length and hops but was a no-show in the series and averaged less than 10 points per game during the playoffs. His potential says superstar, but his numbers screamed solid role player and it was even worse when watching the games. When he finally nailed a three in Thursday's game I felt like I hadn't heard his name called in almost two weeks.
That leaves Hibbert as being the Pacers' "guy." However, based on the nature of the NBA today and especially the style of basketball the Heat play, that's a major problem.
A big man can't play the minutes needed to stay in the paint and stop James and Wade for the 40 minutes they spend on the floor. Even when he was in last night, Hibbert wasn't assertive defensively, allowing floaters right over his head courtesy of Wade as the Heat pulled away late.
Pounding the ball inside to your bigs can certainly beat teams, but it doesn't offer the quick explosive points needed to overcome any kind of a lead in the NBA.
The bottom line is this: on the list of best ballers on the planet, the Miami Heat arguably have number one and number four in James and Wade, respectively. And that's an incredibly difficult thing to contend with for a young team that is unsure of its exact identity.
The Pacers had a great season, something that its basketball-crazed fanbase desperately needed. We finally saw headlines about the Pacers that involved basketball as opposed to trade requests, rap albums, and gentlemen's club altercations.
But while the balanced attack seemed to be something the Heat would struggle with, this series only proved that the Pacers are one major player away from being a title contender for years to come.
But being one player away from a title is a far cry from being 12 players away, and that should be the positive mantra as the offseason is now upon them.
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