The Indiana Pacers are going to need to recover their confidence if they want any chance of storming back in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat. If they do not do so, they are as good as done for.
Indy's confidence is one of its best traits: Roy Hibbert laughing as he puts up double-doubles, David West swaggering down the court, Paul George tomahawk dunking in transition, Lance Stephenson skipping and crossing up defenders, George Hill playing at an actual league-average level.
When the Pacers are clicking, they have enough to beat even the two-time defending champion Miami Heat.
Unfortunately, a third straight win by the Heat puts Indy in the uncomfortable position of a 3-1 deficit in this best-of-seven series. After the loss, one might expect the Pacers to hang their heads in sorrow, their confidence as low as can be.
That does not seem to be the case.
Even though the team said they were focusing on the next game, an elimination Game 5, head coach Frank Vogel told the Associated Press (via ESPN) before the team departed for Indianapolis that, "We've won one game in each playoff series that we've played here [in Miami] the last two years. We should have confidence that we can do that."
Paul George seemed to think the officials played a big role in the Pacers' 3-1 series deficit. "Home cooking," he said.
That Vogel and George believe their team has the talent and production it takes to defeat the Heat on their own home court, that they think they can beat the Heat at all after three straight dismal losses, shows they still have a shred of the confidence that made them the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference this season.
It was obvious during Indy's late-season swoon and tight series with the eighth-seeded Atlanta Hawks that Roy Hibbert was not playing with any of his signature aggression and passion that stems directly from his confidence and rhythm.
Hibbert gets too few touches, or he picks up too many fouls, or he just is not a good matchup fit, and he puts up paltry single-digit points and rebounds, lowering his voice and sulking in the locker room after the Pacers' losses.
It is paramount that Hibbert and the Pacers play with the confidence alluded to in Vogel's and George's comments, banking on intensity and passion against a dynastic team of veterans who may occasionally step off the gas pedal.
For a team with such a talented starting lineup and such great potential, it may come down to how the Pacers perform mentally and emotionally on the court over the more physical aspects of the game.
The Pacers think they can beat the Heat and reach the 2014 NBA Finals. They'll have to know it in order to actually come back in this series.