Less than three weeks ago, the Indiana Pacers were the talk of the NBA. After defeating the Miami Heat 94-75 in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, the Pacers had a 2-1 lead on the team everyone "loves to hate."
Miami had no answer for Pacers' big man Roy Hibbert.
Indiana's defense made Dwyane Wade almost invisible.
However, as the series progressed, Wade looked like his old self and posted totals of 30, 28 and 41 points, while Hibbert's dominance was halted by the Heat.
Miami defeated Indiana 4-2 in the series and advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics. The Pacers failed to play the role of David against the Miami Heat's Goliath, but they proved themselves to the world.
The Indiana Pacers are for real.
Although the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat are widely considered to be the two best teams in the East at full strength, Indiana has every ingredient needed to be an elite basketball team.
To be considered a complete lineup, a team must meet several criteria.
Point guard? Check.
Despite his name sounding more like that of a politician than an NBA star, George Hill can shoot, and his length makes him a nightmare for opposing point guards. Behind Hill, the Pacers boast another point guard capable of starting for an NBA team—Darren Collison.
Perimeter scorers? Check.
Between Paul George and Danny Granger, the Pacers feature two versatile scoring threats capable of shooting the three or taking it hard to the rim. Granger is an All-Star caliber player, who plays an important role not only to Indiana's offensive attack, but Frank Vogel trusts him to guard the opposing team's best player, even in the case of MVP LeBron James.
Post players that can score and block shots? Check.
In a league with only a handful of elite post players, Indiana certainly has one of the better ones in Hibbert. His 7'2" frame not only prevents offenses from attacking the lane, he also has the rare ability to step away from the basket and hit the mid-range jump shot. Alongside the All-Star center, forward David West is one of the NBA's most underrated players, and he's a true "tough guy."
There are any number of reasons to like the Pacers as a basketball team, but what makes Indiana a serious contender for years to come?