The Indiana Pacers’ big men may be the key to getting past the seemingly unbeatable juggernaut that is the Miami Heat.
David West and Roy Hibbert wreaked havoc against a soft New York frontcourt in the second round of the playoffs. Even former Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler was getting out-muscled by Indiana’s dynamic duo.
Now they will look to do the same thing against the Heat. Interestingly enough, they might have an easier time against Miami’s bigs than they did in the last series.
The Heat are a lot of things, but one thing they are not is tall. The tallest player on its roster is the 6’11” Chris Bosh, and no one has ever accused him of being a particularly frightening big man before.
In fact, Miami is mostly devoid of quality big men. Chris Andersen and Udonis Haslem have been doing a great job down low, but the rest of the Heat are basically the Big Three and a squadron of sharpshooters.
West may only be 6’9”, but he plays much bigger than that. He backs down opponents, bangs on the glass and has a lethal mid-range jump shot. Finding someone who can check him consistently might be a difficult task for the Heat.
Even if they find a way to neutralize West, they may have no answer for the 7’2” Hibbert. He has emerged as a dominant NBA center in the 2013 playoffs, averaging a respectable 14.0 points per game and 9.6 rebounds. Just check out what he did to Carmelo Anthony in Game 6 against the Knicks.
This could be a big issue for Miami. The Heat have gotten away with playing small ball all season because the Eastern Conference is mostly devoid of elite big men. Now they might have to change their game plan entirely.
Miami could put LeBron James down low, but the team would probably rather have him guarding Paul George. If the Heat opt to put James on West, they will have to increase Shane Battier’s minutes. Battier is a solid defender and can hit threes, but the Heat probably do not want him on the floor in crunch time.
Even if they solve that problem, the Heat will not be able to do much about Hibbert. Bosh may be able to pull him out of the paint with his mid-range game, which will help Miami on offense. But the Heat can do very little in terms of stopping Hibbert from becoming a beast on the boards.
The Heat might face this issue against either team from the Western Conference, too. The Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs both have a pair of impressive big men.
Taking on the challenge of West and Hibbert will be good practice for upcoming battles against either Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol or Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter. We will see if they are up to the task in the Eastern Conference finals.