Throughout the course of the 2013 NBA playoffs, the Indiana Pacers have made a ferocious statement to the world—that they’re a force to be reckoned with and they’re going nowhere. Problem is, however, the Pacers have yet to silence their most formidable opponent—the Miami Heat.
While the Pacers’ bruising duo of Roy Hibbert and David West have propelled Indiana into a position where the Pacers have a legit shot to end Miami’s quest for a repeat, one thing, in particular, is glaringly evident—Paul George, George Hill and Lance Stephenson have to be consistent.
Despite the fact that Paul George has performed magnificently in many games throughout the playoffs—emerging as one of the elite players in today’s game—George has to maintain consistency on both ends of the floor if the Pacers are to have any shot of pulling the upset.
In the Pacers’ Game 2 victory in Miami, George scored 22 points, shooting an ever-efficient 9-of-16 from the field—including a vicious stuff over Chris “The Birdman” Andersen.
However, in Games 3 and 4, George struggled to get in a groove, scoring a total of 25 points on an abysmal 7-of-20 shooting; all the while assisting the Heat's superior transition game—logging 5 turnovers in each contest.
No doubt, having the strenuous responsibility of guarding LeBron James night in and night out is an assignment that requires strength, determination and energy. Couple that with having to constantly bang with LeBron in the post and you've got quite a task ahead of you.
Nonetheless, George valiantly refuses to use his defensive assignment of guarding LeBron as an excuse for his lack of productivity.
“It’s tough to guard that,” said George of LeBron’s bullying arsenal in the post, according to Sean Deveney of Sporting News. “But it starts with me. I have to do a better job.”
Readily accepting the challenge of guarding LeBron and vowing to improve not only on the defensive end, but on offense as well, speaks volumes of George’s character and his willingness to do whatever task necessary for the team. He knows very well that his play on both ends is one of, if not, the decisive factor in whether or not the Pacers can reach higher ground.
In addition to George, consistent performances from George Hill are crucial if the Pacers are to pull the series upset.
Following a dreadful Game 1 in Miami in which Hill scored only five points in 44 minutes of action, Hill has answered the call, averaging 18.6 points over the last three contests and draining an impressive 7-of-12 shots from three-point territory during that span.
Since the opening game of the series, it is evident that Hill has recognized that one component of his game serves as a priceless weapon yet to be accounted for—his penetration creates problems for Miami’s guards.
Mario Chalmers, while he carried the bulk of the scoring load for the Heat in the third quarter of Game 4, has largely been unable to prevent Hill from venturing into space—creating opportunities for himself and the rest of the team.
Though receiving large amounts of unmerited scrutiny, Dwyane Wade’s health has without a doubt impacted his ability to defend an opponent’s onslaught from the wing.
Whether scoring or creating opportunities for those around him, it is vital that Hill keeps up his strong play as of late for the Pacers to be successful.
In Game 4, Pacer fans were treated to a remarkable showing from the man known as “Born Ready,” as Lance Stephenson scored 20 points on 9-of-15 shooting—driving with intensity and fearlessness.
However, while Stephenson’s contributions on the offensive end were huge for the Pacers, it was his willingness to assist in defending LeBron that stood out—limiting the King to just 8-of-18 shooting from the field.
Time and time again, the Pacers have professed how imperative it is for Lance to play well if they are to achieve success.
By way of Fox Sports’ Chris Tomasson, Hibbert spoke of Stephenson as a “great player” for the squad, all the while noting that he will only continue to grow as time progresses.
Cutting out the reckless drives into traffic, the inexcusable three-pointers after one pass early in the shot clock and the ludicrous flops are necessary not only for the Pacers in their attempt to will past the Heat, but in Stephenson’s maturity and growth as a player moving forward.
Will the Pacers Be the Eastern Conference Champs?
Although young, the Pacers are an experienced group—widely capable of fulfilling the “Beat the Heat” chants continuously echoed throughout Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
As for who will be victorious—nobody knows. We’ll just have to grab our popcorn and wait and see.